The minke whales are the second smallest baleen whale (Misticeti= whales having baleen plates for filtering food, instead of teeth for chewing) in the world. Only the pigmy right whale (found in the lower reaches of the Southern hemisphere) is smaller.
Common minke whales are distinguished from other whales by a white band on each flipper. Adults grow to 7-8m of length, and their body is usually black or dark-grey above, and white underneath.
They are common in British and Irish waters, and can be found both in coastal and offshore waters, making it easy to see them from whale-watching vessels. These whales breathe three to five times at short intervals before "deep-diving" for two to 20 minutes. Deep dives are preceded by a pronounced arching of the back. Most of the length of the back, including dorsal fin and blowholes, appears at once when the whale surfaces to breathe. Around the coasts of Donegal County they are most common in the months of May and June, while in Cork and Kerry Counties they can be seen from March to November. In Argyll & Bute (Scotland) minke whales can be sighted between May and October.