Successful hunters, Orcas use surprisingly sophisticated techniques when pursuing their prey. Often referred to as ‘wolves of the sea’, orcas live and hunt together in ‘pods’, or family groups, much like a pack of wolves. Intelligent and social, they make a wide variety of communicative sounds. Each pod has distinctive noises that its members will recognize even at a distance, so as to keep in touch with one another and to coordinate their hunting behaviour. At the surface they have been known to use body language to communicate, including breaching, slapping their flippers or tail, and “spyhopping” (bringing their head out of the water).
Orcas are at the top of the food chain and have very diverse diets, feasting on fish, penguins, seabirds, seals, sea lions, walruses, sea turtles, squid, sharks and even other kinds of whales. Their teeth can be up to four inches long and are shaped for ripping and tearing prey. Sometimes, a pod of orcas will join forces to surround a larger animal, such as a blue whale. They chase, bite and wear it down until it becomes weak enough for them to feast on. They are also known to grab seals right off the sea ice.
Orca viewing on Tour
Orca viewing is typically done by small expedition cruise ship, zodiac or kayak. Getting off the vessel and into a zodiac (motorised dinghy) or kayak offers the chance to get very close to these impressive animals. There also a few remote wilderness lodges in Canada where orcas can be seen.