As many as 50 call types have been recognized; groans, whistles, buzzes, trills, and roars to name but a few. Although some geographic variation is apparent, efforts to determine whether there are substantial regional differences or dialects have been hampered by differences among bioacousticians in the categorization of vocalizations. Belugas are capable of producing individually distinctive calls to maintain contact between close kin and can conduct individual exchanges of acoustic signals, or dialogues, over some distance.
In general, group structure [among beluga whales] appears to be fluid, with individuals readily forming and breaking brief associations with other whales. Apart from cow-calf pairs there appear to be few stable associations. However, considering the diverse vocal repertoire of beluga whales including individual signature calls, their wide array of facial expressions, and the variety of interactive behaviors observed, as well as the numerous accounts of cooperative behavior, this species appears capable of forming physical proximity to each other.
Formerly abundant throughout the Arctic, belugas have been reduced to localized populations by centuries of hunting. They are still hunted today, although on a reduced scale, but they face growing threats from pollution and shipping traffic.
Its color changes with age: newborn belugas are dark gray, and it can take them up to ten years to assume the adult color, which comes with sexual maturity. Beluga whales are slow swimmers and feed on a wide variety of fish and other animals.
This marine mammal is commonly referred to simply as the beluga or sea canary due to its high-pitched twitter. It is up to 5 m (16 ft) in length and an unmistakable all-white color with a distinctive protuberance on the head. From a conservation perspective, the beluga is considered "near threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; however the subpopulation from the Cook Inlet in Alaska is considered critically endangered and is under the protection of the United States' Endangered Species Act.
Belugas come together in pods of hundreds and even thousands of individuals in the shallow waters of the arctic and sub-arctic seas. For insulation in these cold waters these whales have 10cm thick blubber and half their weight is fat. Beluga whales are very vocal: their chirps, squeaks and clicks are so distinctive they're nicknamed 'sea canaries'.
Belugas are generally considered to be opportunistic feeders. Fish species make up a large part of their diet including herring, capelin, smelt, cod, salmon, flatfish, sculpin, lingcod, and eulachon. They will also feed on octopus, squid, shrimp, crab, clams, mussels, snails, and sandworms.
Beluga whales inhabit arctic and subarctic waters in the United States, Canada, Greenland, and Russia. They are found in open ocean, continental shelf, coastal, estuary, and river waters.
The known predators of belugas are killer whales and polar bears. Polar bears will attack belugas in the same way they would attack a seal, which entails lying in wait at breathing holes.
Communication is achieved by using the melon for echolocation. Belugas have a high frequency level of communication. Their voices are so loud that they sound like birds, which is why they were once nicknamed “sea canaries”.