The killer whale (Orcinus orca), also referred to as the orca whale or orca, and less commonly as the blackfish or grampus, is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family, of which it is the largest member.
A typical killer whale distinctively bears a black back, white chest and sides, and a white patch above and behind the eye. Calves are born with a yellowish or orange tint, which fades to white. It has a heavy and robust body with a large dorsal fin up to 2 m (6.6 ft) tall. Behind the fin, it has a dark grey “saddle patch” across the back. Antarctic killer whales may have pale grey to nearly white backs. Adult killer whales are very distinctive and are not usually confused with any other sea creature.
Killer whales are the largest extant members of the dolphin family. Males typically range from 7 to 9 metres (23 to 30 ft) long and weigh in excess of 6 tonnes (5.9 long tons; 6.6 short tons). Females are smaller, generally ranging from 6 to 8 m (20 to 26 ft) and weighing about 3 to 4 tonnes (3.0 to 3.9 long tons; 3.3 to 4.4 short tons).
Though they often frequent cold, coastal waters, orcas can be found from the polar regions to the Equator.
Killer whales hunt in deadly pods, family groups of up to 40 individuals. There appear to be both resident and transient pod populations of killer whales. These different groups may prey on different animals and use different techniques to catch them. Resident pods tend to prefer fish, while transient pods target marine mammals. All pods use effective, cooperative hunting techniques that some liken to the behavior of wolf packs.
Whales make a wide variety of communicative sounds, and each pod has distinctive noises that its members will recognize even at a distance. They use echolocation to communicate and hunt, making sounds that travel underwater until they encounter objects, then bounce back, revealing their location, size, and shape.
Killer whales are protective of their young, and other adolescent females often assist the mother in caring for them. Mothers give birth every three to ten years, after a 17-month pregnancy.
Killer whales have a diverse diet, although individual populations often specialize in particular types of prey. Some feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals like pinnipeds, and even large whales. They have been known to attack baleen whale calves. Killer whales are regarded as apex predators, lacking natural predators.
In SeaWorld majestic killer whales join you on a journey into a world that drenches your senses in vivid colors, vitality, and the global rhythms of the ocean in their Shamu show, One Ocean®. Dancing fountains set the stage as you connect with thrilling sea creatures, feel the energy and spirit of life underneath the sea, and realize that we are all part of one world, One Ocean.