Bottlenose Dolphin

Tursiops truncatus

The Scottish bottlenose dolphins are considerably larger than their cousins living in the warmer waters off Florida, USA. These dolphins can be between 3 and 4 metres in length and are normally to be seen in pods (groups) of up to ten animals. Pods can form to make much larger groups at times.

Bottlenose dolphins are grey in colouring, with a pale, almost white underside, however the colours of individuals vary. The upper body from dark grey to grey brown and the underside from light grey to white. The lower jaw is distinctive as it extends out further than the upper jaw.

This active and playful cetacean can be seen jumping up out of the water (breaching) and swimming at up to 20mph when hunting. They eat fish, such as Atlantic salmon and have been known to kill harbour porpoise, but not for food.

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Discover more about the Bottlenose Dolphin

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When to see

They are resident in Scotland throughout the year but are more visible in calmer sea conditions in the spring and summer. Dolphins can be more visible at low tide inshore. Dolphins need to breathe air and they can be seen at the surface briefly as they take a breath when travelling along in a pod offshore.

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Where to see

Seen around the coasts of Scotland they are sometimes visible from good shoreline vantage points. Watch the seascape with the naked eye at first, then once a pod is spotted, use binoculars to see activity more closely.

The Moray Firth is one of the best places to see bottlenose dolphins in the UK, with the beach below the lighthouse at Chanonry Point on the north shore of the Moray Firth being particularly notable. Other good spots include off the coast of Aberdeen, the West Coast around Mull, Firth of Lorn, Canna and Skye and increasingly in the Firth of Forth.

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Did you know?

Bottlenose dolphins are vulnerable to disturbance. If you are on the water in the vicinity of dolphins, let the dolphins choose whether they want to associate with the boat. Follow the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code at all times.

If you are choosing a dolphin-watching operators, look for the Wild Scotland or WISE logos which indicate that the operators know how to handle the boat around marine mammals. Never swim with dolphins.

Binoculars Icon Blue
When to see

They are resident in Scotland throughout the year but are more visible in calmer sea conditions in the spring and summer. Dolphins can be more visible at low tide inshore. Dolphins need to breathe air and they can be seen at the surface briefly as they take a breath when travelling along in a pod offshore.

Map Icon Blue
Where to see

Seen around the coasts of Scotland they are sometimes visible from good shoreline vantage points. Watch the seascape with the naked eye at first, then once a pod is spotted, use binoculars to see activity more closely.

The Moray Firth is one of the best places to see bottlenose dolphins in the UK, with the beach below the lighthouse at Chanonry Point on the north shore of the Moray Firth being particularly notable. Other good spots include off the coast of Aberdeen, the West Coast around Mull, Firth of Lorn, Canna and Skye and increasingly in the Firth of Forth.

Book Icon Blue
Did you know?

Bottlenose dolphins are vulnerable to disturbance. If you are on the water in the vicinity of dolphins, let the dolphins choose whether they want to associate with the boat. Follow the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code at all times.

If you are choosing a dolphin-watching operators, look for the Wild Scotland or WISE logos which indicate that the operators know how to handle the boat around marine mammals. Never swim with dolphins.

Binoculars Icon Blue
When to see

They are resident in Scotland throughout the year but are more visible in calmer sea conditions in the spring and summer. Dolphins can be more visible at low tide inshore. Dolphins need to breathe air and they can be seen at the surface briefly as they take a breath when travelling along in a pod offshore.

Map Icon Blue
Where to see

Seen around the coasts of Scotland they are sometimes visible from good shoreline vantage points. Watch the seascape with the naked eye at first, then once a pod is spotted, use binoculars to see activity more closely.

The Moray Firth is one of the best places to see bottlenose dolphins in the UK, with the beach below the lighthouse at Chanonry Point on the north shore of the Moray Firth being particularly notable. Other good spots include off the coast of Aberdeen, the West Coast around Mull, Firth of Lorn, Canna and Skye and increasingly in the Firth of Forth.

Book Icon Blue
Did you know?

Bottlenose dolphins are vulnerable to disturbance. If you are on the water in the vicinity of dolphins, let the dolphins choose whether they want to associate with the boat. Follow the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code at all times.

If you are choosing a dolphin-watching operators, look for the Wild Scotland or WISE logos which indicate that the operators know how to handle the boat around marine mammals. Never swim with dolphins.

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