What Whales are in BC’s Waters?

January 23, 2023

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British Columbia (BC) is home to a diverse array of whale species, each with its own unique characteristics and behaviors. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most common whales found in BC, including killer whales (orcas), humpback whales, and other species.

Types of Killer Whales in BC

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are one of the most iconic and well-known whale species in BC. There are two ecotypes of killer whales that can be found in the waters off the coast of BC: Resident (Northern and Southern) and Transient:

  • Northern Resident killer whales are the most common type found in BC, and they are distinguished by their round, black and white markings. They are called “Residents” because they tend to stay in a specific area year-round, feeding primarily on salmon. Southern Residents are endangered, and all whale watching companies will not watch them. Read more on this here. 
  • Transient killer whales, also known as Bigg’s orcas, are less common than Resident orcas in BC, but they can be found in the waters all along the coast. They are distinguished by their smaller size and more triangular markings. Unlike Resident killer whales, Transients are more mobile and do not have a specific territory. They feed on a variety of marine mammals, including seals, sea lions, and even whales.

Humpback Whales

Humpback whales are another common whale species found in BC. The peak season to view these incredible creatures is from April to November, and even though some migrate to warmer waters in the winter, they can be seen in BC all year round! Humpback whales can be found in a variety of habitats, including coastal waters, open oceans, and even estuaries and the best months to view them in the Salish Sea is between July and November. These whales are known for their distinctive hump and long pectoral fins, as well as their elaborate songs and breaching behavior.

Other Whales in BC

In addition to Orcas and Humpback whales, there are a variety of other whale species that can be found in the waters off the coast of BC. Some of the other common whales in the region include:

  • Grey whales: Grey whales are found along the Pacific Coast of North America, and they are known for their distinctive mottled grey coloring and elongated snout. They feed on small crustaceans and can often be seen feeding in shallow waters near the shore.
  • Minke whales: Minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales, and they are found in a variety of habitats around the world. In BC, they are most commonly found in coastal waters, where they feed on small fish and krill.
  • Fin whales: Fin whales are the second-largest whale species in the world, and they are found in a variety of habitats around the globe. In BC, they are most commonly found in deeper waters off the coast and the Great Bear Rainforest, where they feed on schooling fish and krill.

Overall, BC is home to a diverse array of whale species, each with its own unique characteristics and behaviors. If you’re interested in knowing more about the best time to watch any of these whales, check out this blog post. Whether you’re interested in orcas, humpback whales, or other species, there are plenty of opportunities to see these amazing creatures in the waters off the coast of BC!

Sea you soon!

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