The whales are found in the frigid waters of the Arctic Circle with other animals like dolphins, sea otters and sea lions. Beluga whales are deeply connected to the Inuit, the indigenous people of the Arctic who live off the land.
Born gray, beluga whales grow up to be white so they blend in with their natural surrounds. They can be up to 18 feet long and weigh more than 3,000 pounds.
The social animals travel in small groups of three to 10 whales and can twist their necks to find food. They dine on herring, octopus and squid- as much as 80 pounds of it a day!
It's important for newborn calves to bond with their mothers. In 1999, when Kayavak was orphaned at five months old, Shedd trainers took over, teaching her to eat fish and how to interact with other belugas. She was the first beluga born at the Shedd.
Since then, there have been four- including the December 14, 2009 birth- successful beluga births at Shedd Aquarium, which is one of nine North American zoos and aquariums that displays and breeds beluga whales.
There are seven beluga whales at the Shedd: Females: