Hooded seals are a less numerous seal than the harp, but inhabit the same
regions of the world. These seals feed on fish, squid, shrimp and mussels.
They are large and very distinct in appearance. Both sexes have irregular
black patches on a silvery background. The males which reach up to 9 feet
and weigh 900 pounds, have a very unusual nasal sac which can inflate to
twice the size of a football for courtship display or if angered. In
addition, there is another membrane within the nostril that can inflate to a
red balloon-like sac. Hence their scientific name, "bladder carrying seal
with a crest." The females are rather unspectacular compared to the male.
They are somewhat smaller, about 7 feet long and weighing about 670 pounds.
Pups about 3 ½ feet long, weighing approximately 50 pounds, are born on
the ice from mid-March to mid-April. Pups are born large and well developed,
having shed the lanugo (birth coat) in utero. At birth their coat is a
beautiful slate blue on the back and pale grey underneath, giving it the
nickname "blueback." This coloring remains until molting at 14 months old
when they resemble their parents' coat. The blueback pelts were extremely
desirable to sealers who sold the pelts to furriers for coats. The pups stay
with their mother for only 3 - 5 days before weaning, during which time they
double their birth weight.
Several bluebacks come ashore on Long Island every year, often
exhausted, and sick. They are rehabilitated and released back to sea. Two of
these hooded seals have been outfitted with satellite transmitters which
have enabled researchers to trace their movements and behavior. Both seals
were tracked along the coast to Nova Scotia, Canada before the signals were
For further information about Long Island's seals,