Killer Whale - Pictures, Facts, Appearance, Diet, Behavior, Lifestyle

Killer whales, also known as Orcas, are marine mammals. They hunt large marine animals, such as sea lions, fish, squids and sea birds. Orcas are considered to be highly social and their hunting techniques are quite sophisticated. They may be considered as species that are cosmopolitan in nature i.e. these killer whales can be found in every ocean of the world, as they can adapt to any marine environment.

Killer Whale Facts And Information

  • Killer whales are the biggest member of the Dolphin family. Both the Dolphin and the whale are closely related and belong to a scientific order known as Cetacea. This scientific order is of large aquatic mammals.
  • Their conservation status is Data Deficient, which means there is insufficient information on this species and there is a possibility that two killer whales may be of separate species.
  • They are not a threat to the human being.
  • Orcas live with families and hunt in groups. Because of this, they are sometimes known as wolf of the sea (As wolfs also hunt in packs).
  • They slap their tails on water so that the wave created due to this washes their prey.
  • They even prey on fishes that are bigger than them.
  • Orca may eat up to 227 kilograms of food a day.
  • The three types of killer whales are resident killer whales, transient killer whales and offshore killer whales.


Killer whales or Orcas are apex predators. Apex predators or alpha predators are predators that take the topmost position of the food chain. That means no other predator can prey on them. Their diet may include a variety of fishes, sea turtles, sea birds and cephalopods. Also, different killer whale species have specialized on certain prey species. For example, the types of Antarctic Killer whales with their specific prey include;

  • Type A : This whale looks like a typical whale with medium-sized white eye patches and it mostly feeds on Minke whales.
  • Type B : These killer whales are smaller than type A and have bigger, white eye patches. They mostly feed on seals.
  • Type C : This is the smallest killer whale type and prefers living in large groups. They predominately feed on Antarctic cod.
  • Type D : One common feature of this whale is its extremely small white patch. Although little is known about the diet of this type of killer whale, it is observed that they eat mainly Patagonian tooth fish.


Killer whales are found in all the oceans of the world, but they prefer higher latitudes and also the coastal areas that come in the pelagic zone. According to a survey, the highest density of the killer whales is found near the northeast Atlantic, north Pacific and in the southern Ocean. Also, they are considered as quite common on the eastern Pacific and around the North Atlantic Ocean.

  • Type A killer whales prefer living offshore and in ice-free waters.
  • Type B killer whales prefer inshore waters of the Antarctic Peninsula and the Antarctica.
  • Type C killer whales prefer both pack ice and the inshore water of eastern Antarctic.
  • Type D are known to prefer deep waters, but the sightings are quite few in number.


In general, the killer whale behavior includes breaching (jumping), travelling, tail slapping and socializing.

  • Social Behavior

The social structure of the killer whale is quite complex and stable. They live with their mothers for their entire lives. Their family consists of an old female and her sons and daughters along with the descendants of her daughters. Since the life expectancy of a female killer whale is almost 90 years, up to almost 4 generations stay together. Individual killer whales usually separate from the group for only a few hours.

  • Social Hierarchy

Social hierarchy exists amongst the killer whales where the females are dominant.

  • Individual Behavior

A killer whale may thrust itself completely out of the water and then land on the surface of the water with a huge splash. This behavior is termed as breach. A killer whale may rise vertically exposing only its head. This behavior is termed as spy hop. Sometimes a killer whale may make loud sounds either under the water or above it by lob tailing, dorsal fin slapping and pec-slapping.

Images, Pics, Photos and Pictures Of Killer Whale


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Life Cycle

Female killer whales usually mature at the age of about 10 years and reach their sexual peak at about 20 years. Also, female killer whales may breed up to the age of 40 years.

Killer wales don’t breed within the same pod and mate with females of different pods. The gestation period of a female killer whale is 15-18 months. Females give birth to only one calf once in every five years. Extreme care of the calf is required especially during the first seven months as during this period the death rate of a calf is very high. Male killer wales mature at the age of 15 years, but usually don’t reproduce until they are 21 years of age.


The life average expectancy of a female killer whale is between 46 and 50 years and that of a male killer whale is between 30 and 38 years. Also, the mortality rate of a calf within the first six months is very high.


Killer whales have dark backs and white sides and chests. They have white eye patch with a big and heavy body. A full grown male killer whale is larger than a fully grown female killer whale. The average size of a female is 16-19 feet and that of a male is 19-22 feet.

Their body shape is round and cylindrical with tapering tail and head. The pictorial fins of the killer whale are large and rounded that resembles paddles. Also, the pectoral flippers of males are larger than that of females.

Health Issues

The health issues faced by killer whales include stomach ulcers, heart diseases, skin diseases and respiratory disorders. They may also suffer from viral or fungal infections.

Killer Whale Characteristics

  • The largest male killer whale recorded was 32 feet long while the largest female killer whale was 28 feet long.
  • They are considered as the fastest marine mammals and can swim at a speed of 56km/hr.
  • They can produce three types of sounds namely pulsed calls, clicks and whistles.
  • Amongst the marine animals, they have the second heaviest brain and are considered quite intelligent.
  • Their hearing ability under water is very acute.