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Whales, Dolphins, Fish and Birds which can be seen in and around the Coast of St.Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia

The Blue Whale is the largest animal on earth. A Blue Whale can exceed 80 feet (25 m) in length and weigh in excess of 120 tons (109 tonnes). The largest specimen found was a female 94 feet (29 m) long weighing more 174 tons (158 tonnes). Blue Whales are among the loudest animals on earth as well! Their call can reach 188 decibels and be heard for hundreds of miles. The call of a Blue whale is louder than a jet (140 decibels) and can be painful to human ears. Blue whales can dive for up to an hour, reaching depths of 350 feet (105 m).

The Blue Whale is very rarely seen in Nova Scotia waters.

Blue Whale  (Balaenoptera musculus)

Fin Whales which are the second longest of the Whales can be seen both near to the shore and offshore from early spring until late fall. In winter, they generally migrate south as far as Florida. Finback whales mate in winter, when they are in warm waters. After a gestation period of about a year, a 6 m calf weighing 2 tons or more is born. Finbacks mature at around 10 years of age, and may grow 18 to 23 meters in length and weigh as much as 50 tons. Finback whales may live to be 100 years old and are extremely fast swimmers.

Fin Whales are a common visitor to the waters of Nova Scotia and can be seen in Spring, Summer and Fall.

Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), also called the finback whale or razorback

Humpback whales are the number one target with whale watchers in Nova Scotia. They are very sociable and are rarely seen alone and give fantastic shows with their fantastic airbourne displays.The average humpback measures 15m (50 feet) in length and can live up to 95 years on a diet of capelin, mackerel and herring.

Humpbacks are massive animals and a joy to watch, to see a 65 ton humpback whale leaping from the sea is totally breath-taking. The Humpback whale is a common  sight in Nova Scotia waters in Summer & Fall.

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Orcas, often called 'killer whales', with their striking black and white colouring and high dorsal fin, are easy to spot on a whale watching tour. The whales are the largest member of the dolphin family, often measuring 10m (32 feet) in length. Killer whales eat seals and have been known to attack other whales. They are fast swimmers and are thought to be highly intelligent.

The Killer Whale or Orca is a rare visitor to the waters of  Nova Scotia.

killer whale (Orcinus orca), commonly referred to as the Orca

The minke whale is the smallest of the baleen whales measuring on average 25 to 30 feet in length and weighing 6 to 7.5 tons. Minke whales have a characteristic white band on each flipper, contrasting with its very dark gray top color. They have 2 blowholes, like all baleen whales

.Minke whales are seasonal feeders and carnivores. They sieve through the ocean water with their baleen filtering out small polar plankton, krill, and small fish, even chasing schools of sardines, anchovies, cod, herring, and capelin.

Minke whales have the same diet as blue whales.

Minke Whales can be commonly seen in the waters off Nova Scotia in Spring, Summer & fall.

Common minke whale or northern minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

Pilot whale (Globicephala)

Pilot whales are among the largest of the oceanic dolphins, exceeded in size only by the killer whale. They and other large members of the dolphin family are also known as blackfish.Pilot whales are predominantly dark grey, brown or black, but have some light areas such as a grey saddle pitch behind the dorsal fin. Other light areas are an anchor-shaped patch under the chin, a faint blaze marking behind the eye, a large marking on the belly and a genital patch. The dorsal fin is set forward on the back and sweeps backwards.

Pilot Whales are a very common sight in the waters of Nova Scotia during Spring and Summer.

Right whales are three species of large baleen whales consisting of two genera in the family Balaenidae of order Cetacea. Their bodies are very dark gray or black and rotund.

They are called "right whales" because whalers thought the whales were the "right" ones to hunt, as they float when killed and often swim within sight of shore. As such, they were nearly hunted to extinction during the active years of the whaling industry. Today, instead of hunting them, people often watch these acrobatic animals for pleasure.

The Right Whale is a rare visitor to the shores of Nova Scotia.

Right Whale

Sei Whale (Balaenoptera borealis)

sei whale  is a baleen whale, the third-largest  after the blue whale and the fin whale.It inhabits most oceans and adjoining seas, and prefers deep offshore waters. It avoids polar and tropical waters and semi-enclosed bodies of water. The sei whale migrates annually from cool and subpolar waters in summer to winter in temperate and subtropical waters.The Sei Whale Reaches upto 20 meters (66 ft) long and weighing as much as 28 tonnes and can reach speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph) (27 knots) over short distances.

The Sei Whale is a rare visitor to the waters of Nova Scotia

Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)

The Harbour Porpoise  is one of six species of porpoise. It is one of the smallest marine mammals. As its name implies, it stays close to coastal areas or river estuaries, and as such, is the most familiar porpoise to whale watchers.

Adults of both sexes grow to 1.4 m to 1.9 m (4.6-6.2 ft). The females are heavier, with a maximum weight of around 76 kg (167 pounds) compared with the males' 61 kg (134 pounds).

The Harbour Porpoise is a common visitor to the waters of Nova Scotia in Spring and Fall.

Harbour seals are very common throughout North America. They vary in colour from black, brown, grey or tan, with darker patches. Very young seals are light grey in colour and darken as they mature. The colour pattern is unique to the individual. They have a relatively large head with a short body and flippers.

Harbour seals are thought to number between 400,000 and 500,000 individuals worldwide. They inhabit the waters of both the North Atlantic and north Pacific Oceans.

Harbour seals are a common sight in the waters of Nova Scotia all year round.

Harbour Seal, Common Seal (Phoca vitulina)

Atlantic White-sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus)

These dolphins are common throughout the Maritime Provinces. They are very fast, very agile, swimmers and are sometimes called 'jumpers' because of their constant jumping and leaping out of the water. White-sided dolphins travel in large pods, sometimes 50 or more, and are often seen with humpback, pilot and minke whales. They can measure up to 8 feet in length and love squid, herring, hake and smelt.

The White-sided Dolphin is a common sight in the waters of Nova Scotia in Spring, Summer and Fall.

Northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus)

The body of the northern bluefin tuna is rhomboidal in profile and robust. The head is conical and the mouth rather large. The colour is dark blue above and gray below with a gold coruscation covering the body and bright yellow caudal finlets. Atlantic bluefin tuna can live for 30 years, but due to heavy fishing mortality, few known specimens grow to a mature age.Fully mature adult specimens average 2–2.5 metres (6 ft 7 in–8 ft 2 in) long and around 350 kilograms (770 lb) in weight. The species can reach a maximum length of about 4.3 metres (14 ft). The largest recorded specimen taken under International Game Fish Association rules was caught off Nova Scotia, an area renowned for huge Atlantic bluefin, by Ken Fraser and weighed 679 kilograms (1,497 lb). According to Gordon Johnston's 'It Happened in Canada the longest contest between man and tuna fish occurred near Liverpool, Nova Scotia in 1934, when 6 men, taking turns, fought the 795-lb tuna in a terrific battle that lasted sixty-two hours.

The Blue Fin Tuna is common in the waters of Nova Scotia in summer & fall.

leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

The rare leatherback turtle comes to southern Nova Scotia during the summer months, to feed on jellyfish. Leatherbacks can reach 6 to 8 feet in length and weigh 1200 to 1500 pounds.These turtles are listed as a federally protected endangered species. Worldwide population estimates indicate a decline in numbers of leatherbacks between 1980 and 1995. This decline is attributed to a number of factorsincluding loss of nesting habitats, destruction of nests and propeller wounds.The Leatherback sea Turtle is an occasional Summer visitor to the waters of Nova Scotia.

Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus)

The basking shark  is the second largest living fish, after the whale shark. It is a cosmopolitan migratory species, found in all the world's temperate oceans. It is a slow moving and generally harmless filter feeder and has anatomical adaptations to filter feeding, such as a greatly enlarged mouth and highly developed gill rakers. The basking shark is usually grayish-brown in colour and often seems to have a mottled appearance. The caudal (tail) fin has a strong lateral keel and a crescent shape. Basking sharks are a migrating species and are believed to overwinter in deep waters. They may occur in either small schools or alone. Small schools in the Bay of Fundy have been seen swimming nose to tail in circles in what may be a form of mating behavior. Basking sharks are not aggressive and generally harmless to people.

The Basking Shark is a rare summer visitor to the waters of Nova Scotia.

Ocean sunfish frequent Nova Scotia in search of jellyfish and other species. These stubby, odd looking fish can grow to a ton or more in weight. The sun fish has an almost circular, flattened body. It swims by flapping its long pectoral and dorsal fins; the caudal fin is used as a rudder (for steering).

Some sunfish have been seen floating on their sides at the top of the sea (as above) in search of the heat from the summer sun.

The Ocean Sun fish is a common summer visitor to the waters around Nova Scotia.

Ocean Sunfish

Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

The brilliantly-billed, puffin is just one of numerous species of birds that can be observed on a Whale Watching Tour.It is only during the breeding season that the Atlantic Puffin sports its colourful red, yellow, and blue beak. Once nesting is over, it is lost, along with the yellow ritual tubercle and other horny appendage around the eye. During the winter months the face of the adult looks a dirty grey.

The Puffin is a common sight around the shores of Nova Scotia


Petrels are tube-nosed seabirds in the bird order Procellariiformes

The word "petrel" comes from the Latin name for the Christian Saint Peter, and refers to the habits of certain species to hover just above the ocean waves, with their feet barely touching the water, thus giving an appearance of walking on water, as St. Peter is said to have done.

The Petrel is a common sight around the coast of Nova Scotia.


The Phalarope are especially notable for two things: their unusual nesting behavior, and their unique feeding technique.Two species, the Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius, called Grey Phalarope in Europe) and Red-necked Phalarope (P. lobatus) breed around the Arctic Circle and winter on tropical oceans. Wilson's Phalarope (P. tricolor) breeds in western North America and migrates to South America. All are 6–10 in (15–25 cm) in length, with lobed toes and a straight, slender bill. Predominantly grey and white in winter, their plumage develops reddish markings in summer.When feeding, a phalarope will often swim in a small, rapid circle, forming a small whirlpool. This behavior is thought to aid feeding by raising food from the bottom of shallow water. The bird will reach into the center of the vortex with its bill, plucking small insects or crustaceans caught up therein.

Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)

Young birds are dark brown in their first year, and gradually acquire more white in subsequent seasons until they reach maturity after five years.Adults are 81–110 cm (32–43 in) long, weigh 2.2–3.6 kg (4.9–7.9 lb) and have a 165–180 cm (65–71 in) wingspan. Before fledging, the immature birds (at about 10 weeks of age) can weigh more than 4 kg (8.8 lb). Their plumage is white with black wing tips. The bill is light bluish. The eye is light blue, and it is surrounded by bare, black skin. During breeding, the head and neck are brushed in a delicate yellow.

The Northern Gannet is a  common sight around the shores of Nova Scotia

Razorbill, (Alca torda)

The Razorbill is a large auk, 38–43 cm in length, with a 60–69 cm wingspan. The razorbill has white underparts and a black head, neck, back and feet during breeding season. A thin white line also extends from the eyes to the end of the bill. During nonbreeding season, the throat and face behind the eye become white, and the white line on the face becomes less prominent. The thick black bill has a blunt end, the tail is pointed.Though the Razorbill's average lifespan is roughly 13 years, a bird ringed in the UK in 1967 has survived for at least 41 years—a record for the species.

The Razorbill is commonly seen around the coast of Nova Scotia in the Summer.

Shearwaters are medium-sized long-winged seabirds of which there are more than 30 species.Shearwaters come to islands and coastal cliffs only to breed. They are nocturnal at the colonial breeding sites, preferring moonless nights to minimize predation. They nest in burrows and often give eerie contact calls on their night-time visits. They lay a single white egg.They feed on fish, squid, and similar oceanic food. Some will follow fishing boats to take scraps, notably Sooty Shearwater; these species also commonly follow whales to feed on fish disturbed by them. Their primary technique for feeding is diving and some species diving as much as 70 m (230 ft) under water. Shearwaters are commonly seen around the shores of Nova Scotia in the Summer.


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St. Margaret’s Bay and the waters around the coast of Nova Scotia hold a bounty of beautiful and fascinating creatures. There is a possibility, if it is the right time of year that you will see whales, dolphins, leatherbacks, seals and many species of sea birds in their natural habitat. It is granted that you may see many from the shore, a good pair of binoculars is a must; but without doubt the best opportunity to see these creatures close up is from a boat.

For information on the creatures found in St.Margaret’s Bay and the coastal waters of Nova Scotia either click on the links below or scroll down the page.

Four Winds Charters of St.Margaret’s Bay

Scenic Boat Tours, Nature Cruises,

Fishing trips, Private Charters.

Click for further details