Often referred to as a “killer whale,” the orca is actually a member of the dolphin family. It’s the largest dolphin known in the world right now. What makes the orca unique is that even though they are one species, they can have many different hunting habits.
Based on how local prey reacts, orcas have been observed circling, beaching, and other unique hunting behaviors that are not observed in every pod because they adapt to the local environment.
Interesting Facts About Orcas
#1. Orcas are considered to be an “apex predator.” This means there are no natural predators which may attack them for food. Because of this, orcas tend to hunt in groups, called a “pod,” and their reputation is quite fierce. This is why the Spanish called them ballena asesina, or “Assassin Whale,” which is how we get the name “killer whale.”
#2. Orcas are naturally large creatures. They can be up to 30 feet in length and average about 6 tons in total weight. The largest orca ever discovered actually weight 11 tons, which is the equivalent of 22,000 pounds – twice what the average orca weighs.
#3. Every orca is a carnivore. They typically prefer to eat fish, but aren’t afraid to go catch a seal from time to time. They tend to co-exist with sharks, but aren’t afraid to attack one if they are hungry or need to defend one of their young.
#4. Orcas are very social creatures. The pods are always headed by the oldest female of the group. It takes a minimum of three orcas to form a pod, but there isn’t a maximum number that is currently known. Researchers have observed orca pods that number in the hundreds. This makes it possible for a pod to consist of up to five generations of the same family.
#5. An orca has incredible hearing. Like many sea creatures, they practice echolocation as part of their hunting process. This allows them to have better hearing than a bat. They also have a strong sense of sight, but are not believed to possess the sense of smell.
#6. Orcas have one of the most complex languages in the animal kingdom. Like other dolphins, they produce clicks and whistles, but they make other sounds as they communicate as well. Orcas have been observed snapping their jaws and creating a popping sound in the bass frequencies. Each pod has a unique call as well, which is taught to their young soon after birth.
#7. The orca brain never completely shuts down. Half of their brain sleeps at a time, allowing the orca to be able to surface in order to breathe.
Live Orca Killer Whale Cams
There are currently more than 50 orcas that are held in captivity in the world today. About half of them were captured in the wild. Several countries have passed laws which prohibit holding orcas in captivity. These are the top web cams which can help you see how orcas live in the wild.
One of the top locations to view orcas in the wild is in Puget Sound, Washington.