Bryde’s Whales in San Diego

Balaenoptera edeni brydei

Bryde’s whales are a unique species of rorqual whale and possibly the only species of the ‘Great Whales’ that does not migrate, preferring to stay in its circumtropical range. We typically see Bryde’s whales (pronounced ‘broodus’) on our San Diego dolphin and whale watching tours during the summer months when the ocean temperatures in the southern California Bight reach at least 16 degrees celsius. Bryde’s whales can be observed fairly close to shore but are typically encountered miles offshore which means our faster boat with an expanded search range offers our guests a greater opportunity to see Bryde’s whales. While the sightings are unpredictable, for the best chance of seeing a Bryde’s whale in San Diego we recommend following our sightings reports shared on our Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Bryde’s Whale Info

Description – Bryde’s whales are a member of the rorqual family reaching 50+ feet and 80,000 pounds. They were named for the person who originally described the species. They have a long and slender body with a sickle shaped dorsal fin set 2/3 of the way back along the body. A distinguishing characteristic is the 3 ridges along the rostrum. We often see Bryde’s whales with numerous round scars along their flanks from cookie cutter sharks.

Range – Bryde’s whales can be found moving throughout the world’s tropical and temperate seas. Unique to the rorqual whales, Bryde’s do not migrate to the cold polar waters. Their ranges are unique to their individual geographic populations. The California Bight in summer seems to be the northern limit of the eastern tropical Pacific group of Bryde’s whales we see in San Diego.

Behavior – Bryde’s whales we see are usually solitary adults or are cow/calf pairs. They are not a fast moving species, rarely reaching 15 mph, but they are nimble and can alter course quickly. They are a shallow hunter, spending most of their time within 50 feet of the oceans surface.

They filter feed by skimming, lunging and in some areas, using bubble net feeding strategies. They primarily feed on small crustaceans and small schooling fish, often accompanied by dolphin and sea lions.

Breeding – As Bryde’s whales have a unique life history, making short – if any migrations, they also have a unique approach to breeding. They can mate year round once they become sexually mature, around 6-9 years old.  However, the height of the breeding and calving season is autumn. Females give birth to a single calf every 2-3 years. Pregnancy lasts 10 to 12 months, calves are born 10-12 feet long and weighing 1,500-2,000 pounds. The mother nurses the calf for 12-24 months.


Bryde’s whales create a unique challenge to conservation as they appear to have numerous small and distinct populations. These groups probably do not interbreed and that means they are very susceptible to threats as any large mortality event can effectively wipe out a population.

Bryde’s whales are being hunted in; Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Here in California the Bryde’s whales are threatened by; ship strike, entanglement, noise pollution and climate change which includes habitat destruction and changes to prey item availability.

Oceanic Eco Tours aims to help Bryde’s whales with submitting images to reseachers to improve our understanding of their population. We use the latest engines to eliminate noise pollution and ensure our tour operations do not interfere with the Bryde’s whales activity.