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False Killer Whales!

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Conservation | Education | Whale Watching

Thursday, March 20, 2014


False Killer Whales!
Super rare false killer whales headed toward the boat  | Aquarium of the Pacifc

Rare false killer whale sighting and more!

“A what killer whale?” This might be the first question you have after reading the title of this blog. Answer: super cool, super rare toothed whales. During the second week of March, there was a report of these dark colored, pilot whale-like cetaceans off southern Orange County making their way north. Our boats went on high alert on the afternoon whale watch, and they were found! The pod was reported to be pretty large, with between fifty and seventy individuals, and pretty active as well. The last reported sighting of false killer whales off of our coast was around thirteen years ago! Though their name implies that they are a type of killer whale, they are not. They do, however, share similar behaviors and characteristics. They prey upon other cetaceans like a killer whale but their genus is different. False killer whales are the only member of the genus Pseudorca and are all dark in color. They are usually found in the open ocean and mostly in tropical waters such as Hawaii. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our staff and guests on board, and many photos were taken.

On the gray whale front, we have had tons of sightings! Since the beginning of March we have had over seventy sightings of mostly northbound grays. Like I mentioned before, we have been having a record-breaking migration season, and it continues to amaze. Our very rainy weekend that started off our March whale madness on March 1 had 101 northbounders in one day! This was the highest number of sightings since 1989, according to census records. Most of our grays we have seen from the boat have been younger whales that have been rather shy. Yet, we have also been seeing some courting behavior like rolling, spyhopping, and pec slapping between younger whales. Like last month, many Pacific white-sided dolphins have also been spotted interacting with the whales, and we have had a few more breaches, as well.

Bottlenose and common dolphins, our other toothed whale friends, have also been sighted quite frequently body surfing alongside the boat. We have had a few fin whale sightings and may even have some early blues out scouting the area soon, like we have had this time of year in the past. Soon, we will have many northbound cow/calf pairs passing by, and we are excited to see all of the new life that was given this gray whale season! Its refreshing and hopeful to see this species thrive year after year, and we would like to share these experiences with you. So, bring the family and come on board a whale adventure, enjoy the end of our nice winter weather, and celebrate the beginning of spring!

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