Orca Whale Facts

The orca, a cosmopolitan species, is a toothed whale that can be found in all of the world’s oceans in a variety of marine environments and coastal waters.

Orcas have a diverse diet and feed on fish, mammals, and baleen whale calves. They are highly social and live in stable family groups.

Orcas are commonly referred to as “killer whales” despite being a type of dolphin. They are sometimes referred to as “blackfish” and “grampus” but are not to be confused with the genus Grampus.

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Orca Whale Facts for Kids

  • Orcas live in small groups called pods
  • They are also known as Killer Whales
  • Males live for about 30 years
  • The female Orca lifespan is about 50 years
  • Orcas eat fish, squid, sea turtles, sharks, and other kinds of whales.
  • Killer whales are part of the dolphin family

Orca Populations

Globally, there are around 50,000 killer whales. Killer whales live in the eastern North Pacific Ocean, where there are the best-studied populations.

The number of killer whale populations has declined, and some have become endangered in recent decades.

In the USA, marine parks have ended their breeding programs. But, they can still be found around the world following their trainers’ instructions and performing acrobatic feats.  

Why are orcas called ‘killer whales.’

Dolphins and whales are closely related. The ancient sailors called them whale killers because they hunted and preyed on larger whale species.

What do orcas eat?

They eat fish, seals, dolphins, sharks, rays, and even large whales. Orcas are generalist eaters, but some are picky eaters.

How do orcas sleep?

Orcas sleep in a different way to humans and must remain conscious even when sleeping. 

Orcas sleep by closing one eye when they sleep so that they can look out for dangers in the environment without ever losing consciousness.

How do orcas communicate?

Older whales pass down their knowledge to younger ones, which explains why different pods eat different things.

Different types of orcas

Scientists recognize several kinds of orcas, called ecotypes, who hunt specific prey, live in different parts of the world, and are genetically different.

More Fun Facts about Orca Whales

Killer whales belong to the Delphinidae (oceanic dolphin) family.

Orcinus orca is the binomial name for a killer whale.

Killer whales live between 50 and 80 years in the wild.

Males can grow up to 26 feet in length.

They weigh more than 13,200 pounds.

Female killer whales grow between 16 and 23 feet long.

Female killer whales weigh between 6,600 and 8,800 pounds.

The killer whale is a carnivorous apex predator.

Sometimes smaller whales and fish are eaten by killer whales.

A male killer whale is known as a bull.

A female killer whale is known as a cow.

A baby killer whale is called a calf.

Up to 40 can live in an Orca pod.

Every three to ten years, killer whales give birth to calves

Killer whale calves can weigh 350 pounds.

It is an apex predator, meaning it is at the top of the food chain.