Monday, July 30, 2007

Orca/Killer whale fact sheet

Orcas are the largest members of the dolphin family. Also referred to as killer whales because they kill and feed on whales, as well as other types of prey (including other dolphins, seals, penguins and other birds, turtles, rays, sharks and other fish). Their preferred diet depends on the type of social group (resident or transient) and location. Orcas are highly intelligent animals that have adapted to specialised and cooperative hunting techniques to capture various species including sharks, seals, dolphins, and whales much larger then themselves. Orcas have been recorded swimming at speeds up to 54 km/hr, among the fastest of all cetaceans. The orca is the most widely distributed of the cetaceans, being found around the globe from pole to pole. They are typically found in very social family groups that have unique dialects specific to their area.

Orcas can attack young sperm whales, but this is not often observed in the Azores as they pass by the islands only occasionally. We recorded orcas hunting and killing a fin whale in 2007, and on our orca sightings in 2012 and 2013 we saw males taking loggerhead turtles (see video below).

• Male: 9.8 m
• Female: 8.5 m
• Calf: 2.1 – 2.6 m

• Male: 10,000 kg
• Calf: 200 kg

Global population: c.50,000 (population trend unknown)

Status: Data Deficient

Diet: Fish (including sharks), cephalopods, marine mammals, turtles, seabirds

Teeth: 40 – 52

• Male: 50 years
• Female: 90+ years

Breeding age: 10 – 18 years

Gestation: 11 – 16 months

Nursing: 12 months

In other languages
Portuguese: Orca, baleia-assassino
Spanish: Orca
French: Orque Épaulard
Italian: Orca
German: Orca, Schwertzwal
Dutch: Orkazwaardwalvis
Swedish: Orca, späckhuggare
Norwegian: Spekkhogger
Danish: Spækhugger
Finnish: Miekkavalas
Polish: Orka
Russian: Kasatka

Photo ID (same male in sighted off São Miguel, Azores in January and April 2013) 

Snapshots from video below (April orcas)

Video of our orca sightings in April 2013:

Eye to eye with a female orca:

Orca male, 2013, playing with a ray close to our boat:

Orcas playing curiously behind our zodiac:

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