Key Facts On Killer Whales
Food and Feeding
Sub Species (Transient & Resident)
Despite their name Killer whale, orcas are actually the
largest members in the dolphin family.
They are called whales due to their shear size, rather
than their anatomy.
Their distinctive jet black, brilliant white and grey
markings probably make it the easiest cetacean to
The main differences in sexes are the shape and size of
the dorsal fin and bulkiness of the body.
Adult males are larger and have dorsal fins up to 1.8m
tall and vertical in shape.
Whereas adult females have dorsal fins which are
much more curved and not quite as tall, standing at
Single individuals can be encountered in the ocean but
close-knit pods are the most typical sighting.
Occasionally two or more pods may come together to
form super pods, which may contain up to 150 orcas.
Members of a pod usually stay together for life and
groups of closely related pods (known as clans)
develop their own unique dialects.
Pods may travel in tight formation or spread across
1km of ocean.
Killer whale pods are led by the oldest female in the
Like all dolphins, orcas communicate with one
another by clicks, whistles and body contact.
Also like all cetaceans they use sonar to see their
They are highly sociable and fighting within a pod
is a rare sight.
When they are working as a team to bring down
their prey, they regularly communicate so each
individual knows what rolls to play and when.
Food and Feeding
Killer whales are very versatile in what they pray upon
no matter what shape or even size.
Animals known to make up their diet consist of
squid, octopus, fish, sea birds, turtles, seals and other
Videos have been taken of orcas attacking great white
sharks and blue whales, evidence of their capabilities.
Food and Feeding
The relationship between killer whales and their prey is
Pods often ignore potential prey and specialize on other
Luckily for us humans we are not on their menu in the
Only orcas in captivity have been known to attack people.
Sub Species (Transients & Residents)
Studies which have been carried out in
North America suggest that there are
two sub species of killer whale
Transients and residents.
The factors separating these sub
species are behavioral.
Transients tend to form smaller pods, numbering
between 1-7 individuals.
Explore wider areas of sea.
Feed almost exclusively on mammals.
Communicate to each other less.
Stay under water for 5 – 15 minutes at a time.
Residents form larger pods between 5 – 25 individuals.
Roam over smaller areas.
Feed mainly on fish.
Dives rarely exceed 4 minutes.
Orcas are very sociable animals and are safe to
They commonly breach, lob tail, flipper slap and spy
They do also beach rub, dorsal fin slap and speed
Whilst resting logging dose take place.
They do however have a dark side when it comes to
attacking their prey.
When killer whales purposely beach themselves to
snatch a seal from the coast they do sometimes play cat
Despite this cruel behaviour, one video shows orcas
spy hopping, circling and attacking a seal into the
water from an ice plate.
However as a sign of great intelligences they don't
harm it. Their just teaching the younger orcas how to
Killer whales are the second most widely spread
mammals on Earth, only human have conquered larger
However the waters in which they range are patchy.
They are more commonly found in cooler waters than
They live both inshore and offshore.
Threats and Current Status
Orcas are being taken from the wild for.
Damage to fishing equipment
The countries that hunt whales are
Norway, Iceland and Japan.
You can help protect these mighty
animals by signing up to one of
these conservation websites.
Killer whales conservation and research
Killer whales adoption programme (KWAP)
National parks conservation association (NPCA)
(WWF) Resident killer whales in British Columbia
The Pacific Wildlife Foundation (PWLF)
Wild whales conservation
Thank you for watching
Dorling Kindersley Handbooks WHALES DOLPHINS
AND PORPOISES. Mark Carwardine, Illustrated by