Transient orca calf for color and size comparison to adults.

Transient orca calf for color and size comparison to adults.

This morning, we ventured out of Roche Harbor with a report of orcas across Haro Straight. Great, right? Wrong. Only one boat had tried to get there so far, and they were forced to turn around due to high seas. Haro is a tricky place. On some days it's like glass, and on other days, you would be crazy to try to cross it. Today started off like the latter. In the interest of the guests dry clothes and lack of nausea, we headed north to Speiden Island to check out some harbor seals, and any other wildlife we could find. Shortly thereafter, another whale watching boat sped past us. They were headed toward the last reported location of the killer whales. Apparently, the seas had calmed a bit over there, and if they could do it, we could do it. So we headed off after them toward Haro Straight, where it was still slightly choppy. Everyone agreed that the whales were worth the chop and all was well with the world.

In this particular group of transients, there were two matriarchs, one adolescent, one adult male, and two young calves, likely still of nursing age. There are a number of ways that you can tell the age of an orca by sight; the first of which is by size. Although orca calves are born at a whopping 6-8 feet long, that's nothing compared to mom, who can be anywhere from 20-24 feet long. Their dorsal fins also grow proportionally with age, and is the body part that we, as whale watchers, see the most. But one of the coolest ways to roughly tell the age is by color. In the featured photo, you can actually compare the color of the eyepatch on the small calf (middle) to the adults on either side. The white skin (eye patch, chin, belly) on very young killer whale calves tends to be orange-y in color. This is due to their lack of blubber, without which, you can see coloration from blood vessels in the skin.


Naturalist Alex

M/V Sea Hawk

San Juan Outfitters