In our area, there are 3 genetically distinct types of Orca, and in the world there are 5 or more types, and current research even shows that there are at least 4 separate SPECIES in the world.

In the North Pacific, we have Resident, Transient, and Offshore Orca.

Resident Orca

resting residents

Residents, whose diet consists primarily of fish, don’t spend all of their time in one place, as their name might suggest.  They can range several hundred miles in their search for fish, staying close to the coast, feeding on salmon in the summer.  Their winter range is not well known. 

Resident Orca have very close, long-term family associations.  Males and females both swim with their mothers their entire lives, so mating only happens when multiple pods come together for a few days, and those associations are only temporary.

Resident Orca use vocal dialects to keep their pods together.  Some calls are unique to only a small pod of 6 or 7 animals.  Others may be used by a whole clan, or extended family group of 30-50 animals.

Transient Orca



Transients have a diet that consists primarily of marine mammals, including seals, sea lions, porpoise, and other whales.  They do have a larger range than residents, and in some cases may travel over a thousand miles, but they also have areas where they visit frequently.

Transients have a social structure that is less defined than residents, and usually swim in smaller groups of 1 to 7 animals.  While Residents are often vocal, Transients travel quietly so that they do not alert their prey.  There are far fewer Transients than Residents.

The dorsal fins of Transient often have a more triangular shape, while Residents have dorsal fins that are more curved and have a more rounded tip.

Offshore Orca



Very little is known about Offshore Orca, because it is much more challenging to study any offshore species. From photo id, we know that they have a HUGE range! The same group has been photographed in Alaska AND California! Offshores have been found with worn teeth, and have been documented predating on Pacific Sleeper Shark.  They likely eat fish also.  Offshores often travel in large groups of 50 to 80 animals.


In general, orcas are the most widely distributed cetacean. They reach nearly 9 meters/ 30 feet, and weigh up to 9 tons. The largest orca 'measured' was a transient male from the Bering Sea. Orcas are the largest member of the Dolphin family, having cone shaped teeth.

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