|Oregon Coast Notes|
|Killer Whales are sited off the Oregon Coast|
|Oregon Coast Notes - News|
The middle of April is Orca season from Cascade Head all the way down to Florence. According to Morris Grover, with the Whale Watch Spoken Here program, there may be more than usual this 2010 spring season and they are here earlier than usual.
These Orcas are more shark-like than the "friendly whales," from the San Juan Islands that eat only salmon. These killer whales are called "transient" whales, meaning officials don't know where they come from. They live off of seals and baby Gray whales. Grover said that we always have them during Whale Watch, but this is four or five times more than normal.
Orcas aka Killer Whales
Orcas, or killer whales, are the largest of the dolphins and one of the world's most powerful predators. They feast on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even whales, employing teeth that can be four inches (ten centimeters) long. They are known to grab seals right off the ice. They also eat fish, squid, and seabirds.
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.
Orcas are immediately recognizable by their distinctive black-and-white coloring and are the intelligent, trainable stars of many aquarium shows. Killer whales have never been extensively hunted by humans.
Spotting Killer Whales
If you want to spot Killer Whales you need to practice the same patience that you need to spot any whale.
Bring your binoculars and dress for the weather. Focus your binoculars and have them ready, but watch with your eyes. When you locate a blow, then bring up your binoculars for a closer look. how often and where they may surface.
Morning light (with the sun at your back) is often helpful for spotting blows. Afternoon light reflects off the water and makes viewing difficult.
Calmer days are better whale watching days, by land, sea or air!
Any spot with an ocean view may yield whale sightings, but higher locations are better than sandy beaches.
The Newport area has many of these, such as the lighthouse at Yaquina Bay, the Yaquina Head area, Don Davis Memorial Park in Nye Beach, and nearby at Cape Foulweather. Another good spot for seeing them is the headquarters for the Whale Watch Spoken Here program in Depoe Bay.
Check out our other Whale Watching Articles