Seasonal changes in the vocal behavior of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) in Disko Bay, Western-Greenland

Outi M. Tervo, Susan E. Parks, Lee A. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Singing behavior has been described from bowhead whales in the Bering Sea during their annual spring migration and from Davis Strait during their spring feeding season. It has been suggested that this spring singing behavior is a remnant of the singing during the winter breeding season, though no winter recordings are available. In this study, the authors describe recordings made during the winter and spring months of bowhead whales in Disko Bay, Western-Greenland. A total of 7091 bowhead whale sounds were analyzed to describe the vocal repertoire, the singing behavior, and the changes in vocal behavior from February to May. The vocal signals could be divided into simple (frequency-modulated) calls (n=483), complex (amplitude-modulated) calls (n=635), and song notes (n=5973). Recordings from the end of February to middle of March were characterized by higher call rates with a greater diversity of call types than recordings made later in the season. This study is the first description of bowhead song from the stock in Western-Greenland during both the winter and spring months, and provides support for the hypothesis that song during the winter months contains more song notes than song from the spring making the winter song more variable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1570-1580
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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