About San Juan Island’s Orca Whales

kayak trip whalesOrca Whale Quick Facts

  • The largest of all dolphins (the Delphidae family), the orca is also known as killer whale, blackfish and grampus.
  • At birth an orca can weigh up to 395 lbs.
  • The adult weight can range from 2.6 tons to 9 tons.
  • Orcas can swim up to 34 mph (55 km/h).

Orca Pods

Orcas spend their lives in long-term social groups, called pods (group size: 3-25) These pods are stable family-related groups. Orcas display a high level of care for their offspring. The orca’s gestation period is thought to be 12-16 months, with most calves born between October and March. In addition to the mothers, various pod members (mainly adolescent females) perform most of the care for the calves. As with most mammals, killer whales are very protective of their young.

Whale Talk

Different orca pods “sound” different. Each pod has its own dialect of sounds. Orcas can easily recognize their own pod from several miles away based on the differences in calls.

Identifying the Whales

To some, orcas look exactly alike however they can be distinguished from one another by the shape and size of their dorsal fins, the distinctive grayish-white saddle patches behind their dorsal fins, as well as distinctive scars, nicks and marks on their dorsal fins.

Orca Diet

A versatile predator (excellent hunter), the orca has one of the most varied diets of all cetaceans. It is known to eat anything from squid, fish, and birds to sea turtles, seals, and dolphins. It even will tackle animals as large as blue whales! Orcas are often compared to wolves because both species are top predators, maintain complex social relationships, and hunt cooperatively.

Orca and Human Interaction

Despite their hunting of other animals, free-ranging wild orcas have never been reported as having killed a human being.

Orca Whale Territory

Orcas are one of the most wide ranging mammals on earth. They regularly can be seen in the cooler waters around San Juan Island, off Antarctica, Norway, and Iceland, and occasionally in tropical and subtropical waters in many other areas.

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