FALSE KILLER WHALE (Pseudorca crassidens)

IDENTIFICATION

Size
- to a maximum of 6 m

Colour
- black all over

Dorsal fin
- small, curved dorsal fin like that of a female killer whale

Blow
- small and bushy

Surface behaviour
- may breach or porpoise
- may bowride on vessels

Group size / social behaviour
- extremely social, usually in large groups of 20 - 100 animals

Other characteristics
- has a distinctively shaped pectoral fin that bulges in the front
- has a rounded head or "melon"

Can be confused with
- killer whale (but is smaller and has no white patches)
- pilot whale (but is shaped more like a classic dolphin, and has no white patches)

Notes:
- false killer whales have been known to bowride on vessel
- although they resemble killer whales, false killer whales are more closely related to Risso's dolphins (see below) and pilot whales
- many stranded false killer whales have been found to have large quantities of plastic in their stomachs

False Killer Whale
False Killer Whale
Graeme Ellis
False Killer Whale
Rob Butler
Click photo to read about Willy, the friendly false killer whale

NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHIN (Lissodelphis borealis)

IDENTIFICATION

Size
- to a maximum of 3 m

Colour
- mostly black, with white on the belly and the tip of the beak

Dorsal fin
- no dorsal fin (the most distinctive feature of this dolphin)

Blow
- small and bushy

Surface behaviour
- porpoising is very common

Group size / social behaviour
- extremely social, usually in large groups of 200 - 2000 animals

Other characteristics
- has relatively small pectoral fins that are held very close to the body, giving the appearance that it has no fins at all.
- body is very sleek and streamlined

Can be confused with
- due to its lack of dorsal fin and black coloration, the northern right whale dolphin should not be confused with any other species.

Notes:
- often seen in association with Pacific white-sided dolphins

Northern Right Whale Dolphin
Northern Right Whale Dolphins
Alana Phillips
Northern Right Whale Dolphins
Alana Phillips

RISSO'S DOLPHIN (Grampus griseus)

IDENTIFICATION

Size
- to a maximum of 4 m

Colour
- mostly grey, with white on the belly
- dorsal and pectoral fins are dark grey
- body is usually covered with many scars and scratches; older animals may appear completely white

Dorsal fin
- large, dark grey dorsal fin, resembling that of a female killer whale

Blow
- small and bushy

Surface behaviour
- may porpoise, spyhop or breach

Group size / social behaviour
- social, usually in groups of 10 - 50 animals

Other characteristics
- very robust head with a prominent "melon", contrasting with a thin tail stock

Can be confused with
- killer whales or pilot whales (but color is very light grey; killer whales and pilot whales do not typically have a multitude of scars and scratches)

Notes:
- may bowride on vessels, although usually avoid humans.
- have been found to depedate fish from long lines.

Risso's Dolphin
Risso's Dolphin
DFO
Risso's Dolphin
DFO
Risso's Dolphin
DFO
Risso's Dolphin
Risso's Dolphin

COMMON DOLPHIN (Delphinus capensis)

IDENTIFICATION

Size
- to a maximum of 2.5 m

Colour
- unique criss-cross pattern of yellow, white, grey and black bands
- dorsal surface, beak and fins are black

Dorsal fin
- small, highly pointed and black

Blow
- small and bushy

Surface behaviour
- very acrobatic; high leaps, porpoising and breaching are common

Group size / social behaviour
- social, usually in groups of 20-30 animals but may occur in large schools of hundreds or thousands

Other characteristics
- thin, pointed beak

Can be confused with
- Pacific white-sided dolphins - but yellow coloration and thin pointed beak are the biggest differences

Notes:
- have only been seen a couple of times in B.C. waters
- two species of common dolphins occur in the North Pacific Ocean: the long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis) and the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis). These are very difficult to distinguish from each other in the wild.

Common Dolphin

BEAKED WHALES

 

Beaked whales are found offshore in deep waters. There are many species in the Northern Pacific ocean; these are the most frequently encountered. Because they avoid vessels are are found far from shore, few sighting reports of beaked whales exist for British Columbia.

IDENTIFICATION

Size
- Baird's beaked whale: up to 13 m (about the size of a grey whale)
- Cuvier's beaked whale: up to 7 m (about the size of a female killer whale)
- Stejneger's and Hubb's beaked whales: up to 5 m

Colour
- Baird's beaked whale: dark brown, with irregular white patches on the belly
- Cuvier's beaked whale: orange brown, with a white head and small white patches
- Stejneger's beaked whale: dark, with light coloration around the lower jaw and eyes; prominent triangular tooth may be seen
- Hubb's beaked whales: dark, with light coloration around both jaws and a white mound above the eye; a triangular tooth may be seen

Dorsal fin
- the dorsal fins of beaked whales are typically small, triangular and very far back on the animal's body
- Cuvier's beaked whales' dorsal fins are more curved (falcate) like that of a dolphin

Blow
- small and bushy, difficult to see from afar

Surface behaviour
- rarely seen above the surface, although may occasionally lift their heads slightly out of the water

Group size / social behaviour
- usually found in tight groups of 5-20 animals, very close to one another

Other characteristics
- beaked whales have teeth that emerge from their lower jaw
- most individuals (especially males) are heavily scarred due to male competition

Can be confused with
- large size and coloration of Baird's beaked whales is comparable with minke whales, but Baird's beaked whales have a pointed beak, no baleen, and are typically found in groups.
- smaller beaked whales may be confused with pilot whales or large dolphins.

Notes:
- beaked whales have no teeth apart from one or two pairs in the lower jaw that usually erupt only in adult males, which use them for fighting and establishing dominance
- beaked whales are deep-diving animals that forage on deep sea squids; they capture their prey by sucking them into their mouths
- scientists believe there are still some species of beaked whales that have not yet been discovered

Baird's Beaked Whale
Baird's beaked whale (Berardius bairdii)
Stejneger's Beaked Whale
Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris)
Stejneger's Beaked Whale
Stejneger's beaked whale (Mesoplodon stejnegeri)
Hubb's Beaked Whale
Hubb's beaked whale (Mesoplodon carlhubbsi)
Baird's beaked whales
Jared Towers
Baird's beaked whales
Baird's beaked whales
Jared Towers
Baird's beaked whales

OTHER VERY UNCOMMON WHALES

Although abundant elsewhere in the world, the following species have only been encountered once or twice in British Columbia waters.

Short Finned Pilot Whale
Short-finned pilot whale (Globicephalus macrorhynchus)
Dwarf Sperm Whale
Dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima)
Striped Dolphin
Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba)