Harbour Porpoise

Please go to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust for images of harbour porpoises

Latin name: Phocoena phocoena

Gaelic name: Peileag

Length: 135 – 180cm

Where: Loch Long, Loch Goil

When: All year round

If you sit quietly on the shore on a calm, summer day you may hear a strange ‘huffing’ sound – a bit like someone blowing up a balloon - coming from the sea. Look more closely at the waves offshore and you may be lucky enough to catch sight of a small dark fin or a smooth, grey back curving out of the water. You’ve spotted a harbour porpoise.

You rarely get to see the whole animal, as they don’t leap out of the water as some dolphins do. If you did you would see that they have short, blunt heads, with no forehead or beak. They often move around in small groups of less than ten, and if they find a large shoal of fish they have been known to work together to ‘herd’ them, making them easier to catch.

These are the smallest cetaceans to visit our waters, but some of the most commonly seen. They have the nickname of ‘puffing pigs’ because of the noise they make when they surface to breathe and spout. This can be the first inkling you get of their presence. They come up to breathe about four times in a row for 10-20 seconds each, then they can dive for up to six minutes – so you’ll need to look around to spot them again as they can go a long way in that time!

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Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods