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Killer Whales Finally Make Their Debut for the Year!

Kera's avatar

Whale Watching | Mammals

Thursday, May 27, 2010


They were spotted twice in less than two weeks

Killer whales, also known as orcas, pop up here in Long Beach every so often. Normally they’re here a couple times a year, usually in winter. This year I was a little sad that we hadn’t seen any during gray whale season, but it looks like some of the pods made their way down here. We’ve seen orcas two times in the last month!

Our first spotting occurred on Monday, May 10, 2010. All of the Captains are on alert to call me ASAP when there are orca sightings. Ironically, I had just landed up north to go killer whale watching! Although I was sad that I couldn’t jump on a boat and go take a look, I was excited to hear that they were finally here. What’s even more exciting about this sighting is it looks like this might have been an offshore pod of killer whales. The second sighting showed up a little over a week later on May 20, 2010. By the size of the pod, it looks like these also might have been offshore orcas as well.

As it turns out, there are three main eco-types of killer whales that are commonly seen on the Eastern Pacific. There are residents that live up north which are mainly salmon eaters, transients that are found up in Washington and around Monterey Bay which prey upon other mammals, and then offshores that tend to move around and little is known about their diet. We’ve never spotted residents this far south before, but we have seen transients and offshores. The offshores are the newest discovered eco-type and were seen for the first time on in the late 1970’s.

Between the three eco-types, there are some differences besides just what they eat. The residents tend to be very vocal, especially when they’re hunting. They live in medium sized pods that are run by the females. The transients tend to stay in smaller pods, usually around 3-5, and are more of a silent hunter because other marine mammals can pick up on their sounds. The offshores, as I earlier mentioned, aren’t known as much about, but it’s thought that they eat larger fish because they tend to be more vocal like the resident orcas. The offshores can be in very large pods, sometimes seen in groups of about 60 orcas!

Now although I didn’t get a chance to see the second group of killer whales either, I’m still optimistic and know that they’ll return again someday when I’m on the boat. I’ve yet to see orcas off Long Beach, but I’m hopeful that my day will come! If you’re interested in joining us in our search for marine life, now is a perfect time with the orcas finally.

Killer Whales Finally Make Their Debut for the Year!
Killer whales can be recognized easily by their dorsal fin at the surface  | Rogelio Ayala
Killer Whales Finally Make Their Debut for the Year!
A killer whale surfaces to breathe  | Rogelio Ayala
Killer Whales Finally Make Their Debut for the Year!
The black and white markings on a killer whale are unique to each individual  | Rogelio Ayala

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Thursday, May 27, 2010 12:40 PM

* As it turns out, just this morning I was notified by our local orca researcher that I’m in contact with that after further studying the pictures, she’s concluded that these were in fact TRANSIENT killer whales.  They’re not offshores as previously thought.  Looks like they were on the hunt for some other marine mammals!

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