Killer Whale (Orca)

Only recently have researchers, primarily Dr. Andy Foote of Aberdeen University, uncovered the facts about the orca populations found off our coasts. While the pods found off the northern and eastern coasts are migratory, following the mackerel and herring shoals, the small population seen off the west coast are resident year round and number only nine individuals. These nine, dubbed the ‘West Coast Community’, never interact with the migratory pods and never has a calf been recorded within the group.

Orcas are instantly recognisable; large black dorsal fins (an adult male’s dorsal can stand 6 foot!) and distinctive white and black colouration. Orcas are actually the largest member of the dolphin family; – the name ‘killer whale’ comes from the fact that some populations prey on whales.

Orcas are highly mobile and can travel at speeds of 35 mph, which enables them to travel vast distances in short periods of time. The animals are very intelligent and can be inquisitive; approaching boats, spy hopping and tail slapping. While the migratory orca pods are opportunistic feeders and will eat a variety of prey (including eider ducks!) the small pod off the west coast are thought to be exclusively marine mammal eaters.

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Discover more about the Killer Whale (Orca)

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When to see

The west coast community can be seen through-out the year - however, with such small numbers and a huge range, you’re very lucky to encounter them.

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Where to see

Minke whales are increasingly seen around the coast of Scotland, however the main hot spot for sightings is around the Small Isles (Rum, Eigg and Muck) between the islands of Skye and Mull. Minke whales, particularly juveniles can be very inquisitive and may approach boats.

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Did you know?

In the most recent round of meetings of the International Whaling Commission, Japan once again secured an increased quota for the hunting of whales for scientific research. The 2007/8 kill will rise to 1035 whales (an increase of 20%). This provides a legitimate source of whale meat for the Japanese market. At present Norway, which also hunts whales for research, is banned under the CITES convention from exporting minke whale meat to Japan.

Binoculars Icon Blue
When to see

The west coast community can be seen through-out the year - however, with such small numbers and a huge range, you’re very lucky to encounter them.

Map Icon Blue
Where to see

Minke whales are increasingly seen around the coast of Scotland, however the main hot spot for sightings is around the Small Isles (Rum, Eigg and Muck) between the islands of Skye and Mull. Minke whales, particularly juveniles can be very inquisitive and may approach boats.

Book Icon Blue
Did you know?

In the most recent round of meetings of the International Whaling Commission, Japan once again secured an increased quota for the hunting of whales for scientific research. The 2007/8 kill will rise to 1035 whales (an increase of 20%). This provides a legitimate source of whale meat for the Japanese market. At present Norway, which also hunts whales for research, is banned under the CITES convention from exporting minke whale meat to Japan.

Binoculars Icon Blue
When to see

The west coast community can be seen through-out the year - however, with such small numbers and a huge range, you’re very lucky to encounter them.

Map Icon Blue
Where to see

Minke whales are increasingly seen around the coast of Scotland, however the main hot spot for sightings is around the Small Isles (Rum, Eigg and Muck) between the islands of Skye and Mull. Minke whales, particularly juveniles can be very inquisitive and may approach boats.

Book Icon Blue
Did you know?

In the most recent round of meetings of the International Whaling Commission, Japan once again secured an increased quota for the hunting of whales for scientific research. The 2007/8 kill will rise to 1035 whales (an increase of 20%). This provides a legitimate source of whale meat for the Japanese market. At present Norway, which also hunts whales for research, is banned under the CITES convention from exporting minke whale meat to Japan.