Transient Killer Whales

Transient Killer Whales are a little different from the Southern Residents. Physically, they almost look the same, are similar in size and colour markings, and have echolocation, amongst other similarities. However, what makes them different from the Southern Residents includes their diet, social structure, and behaviour, to name a few.

Orca Tail Lobbing near Race Rocks

How often and when do we see them?

Their movements are very unpredictable, unlike the Southern Residents and we do encounter Transients throughout the year. During the winter and early spring periods, they are most commonly sighted swimming right along the shore. It is believed that this type of behaviour means that they are hunting for harbour seals and other prey.

Diet & Feeding

Transient killer whales are mammal eating Orca. These are the Orca that you see on TV, flinging seals around and chasing after other whales, in particularly gray whale calfs. The name "killer whales" probably originated when fishermen watched these Orca hunting other whales. Transients use their biological sonar and echolocation to find prey and then basically beat it up, smacking it with their head and continuing to do so until it dies. To physically see a hunt can be a little disturbing to many people.

When they are hunting smaller prey, such as seals and small sea lions, they can do so on their own. However, when they are hunting larger prey, like larger baleen whales, they will team up with other killer whales and work as a team. After the kill, they share the reward/food, then go on their own way.

To give you an idea of how much a Transient will eat, an adult male needs to eat about three harbour seals a day, which will provide him with enough energy to get by!

Transient pod in Juan De Fuca - March 25, 2012

Social Structure

Unlike the Southern Residents, Transients do not have large pod sizes. They are frequently sighted in groups of 4 - 6. However, larger pods have been sighted, especially when they are hunting exceptionally large prey, like other large baleen whales for example. A pod generally consists of a female and her offspring, which is similar to our Residents in that they are very attached to their mother and stay close, especially for the first 8 years or so.

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  • Seattle Float Plane Terminal
    1234 Wharf St.
    Victoria, BC
    V8W 3H9