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Dieren en planten

Mens en Milieu

Pilot whale


Males 4-8 meters
Females: 3-6 meters


2000-4000 kilograms


Dark brown or gray black


Maximum 60 years


Squid, but also fish such as cod

  • Dut: Griend (traanvis)
  • Lat: Globicephala melas
  • Eng: pilot whale (long-finned pilot whale)
  • Fren: globicephale noir
  • Ger: Grindwal
  • Dan: Langluffet grindehval
  • Nor: Grindhval
Pilot whale, Frits-Jan Maas

Pilot whale

Pilot whales are large dolphins with a markedly round forehead. They were named after their reputation for leading fishermen to good fishing grounds for octopus. There is one population living in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, there are several including one by Antarctica. Just like killer whales, pilot whales live in close family groups of 20 to 100 animals. They hunt mostly squid. Pilot whales sometimes strand in massive numbers. Sightings of groups of pilot whales migrating through the North Sea appear to be increasing in the past few years. The most recent pilot whale beaching was in May 2006 on Schiermonnikoog.

  • Distribution and habitat
    Pilot whale, Marijke de Boer

    There is not just one species of pilot whales. The species found in the North Sea swims in the northern as well as southern hemisphere. However, you won't find it in the tropics. That's a different species living there, the short-finned pilot whale. All pilot whales prefer deeper water.

  • Stranding on the Dutch coast
    Stranded pilot whale on Schiermonnikoog, 23 May 2006, Ineke Abma
    DatePlace and details
    21 November 1594 Zandvoort
    20 September 1608 Scheveningen/Katwijk
    9 April 1825 St.Annaland, 38 animals
    2 April 1856 Ouddorp, 61 animals
    5 april 1856 Vrouwenpolder, 13 animals
    end of 1884 Egmond
    6 October 1917 Scheveningen/Wassenaar
    9 October 1917 Egmond
    12 July 1958 Schiermonnikoog
    April 1965 Terschelling, male
    1 November 1970 Noordwijk
    7 September 1975 Walcheren, floating female
    11 December 1979 Zandvoort, male
    19 December 1982 Oosterend, Terschelling, female
    14 January 1983 Ouddorp, female
    20 January 1983 Borssele, female
    30 July 1985 Westkapelle, male
    2 July 1990 Petten
    24 May 2003 Hondbossche Zeewering
    23 May 2006 Schiermonnikoog, on display in Natuurmuseum Friesland
    4 september 2010 Rottumerplaat
    17 December 2014 Schouwen, very decomposed
    11 January 2015 Hondsbossche Zeewering north of Camperduin;female, rotten, but reasonably in tact
    Source: Archive Naturalis and Chris Smeenk
  • Hunted
    Stranded pilot whale on Schiermonnikoog, 23 May 2006, Ineke Abma

    The pilot whale used to be hunted intensively for its meat and oil. Presently, they are still hunted around Greenland and the Faroe Islands.