Beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas, vocalizations and their relation to behaviour in the Churchill River, Manitoba, Canada

Thumbnail Image
Chmelnitsky, Elly
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The investigation of a species’ repertoire and the contexts in which different calls are used is central to understanding vocal communication among animals. Beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas, calls were classified and described in association with behaviours, from recordings collected in the Churchill River, Manitoba, during the summers of 2006-2008. Calls were subjectively classified based on sound and visual analysis into whistles (64.2% of total calls; 22 call types), pulsed or noisy calls (25.9%; 15 call types), and combined calls (9.9%; seven types). A hierarchical cluster analysis, using six call measurements as variables, separated whistles into 12 groups and results were compared to subjective classification. Beluga calls associated with social interactions, travelling, feeding, and interactions with the boat were described. Call type percentages, relative proportions of different whistle contours (shapes), average frequency, and call duration varied with behaviour. Generally, higher percentages of whistles, more broadband pulsed and noisy calls, and shorter calls (<0.49s) were produced during behaviours associated with higher levels of activity and/or apparent arousal. Information on call types, call characteristics, and behavioural context of calls can be used for automated detection and classification methods and in future studies on call meaning and function.
beluga, acoustic communication, call classification, behaviour, Hudson Bay