Killer Whales

Their impressive size and fierce hunting skills have earned killer whales the title of “top predator of the ocean.” Their distinctive black and white coloration — disruptive coloration — may enhance their hunting abilities. This type of color pattern contradicts the killer whale’s body shape and in the flickering filtering sunlight of the sea, other animals may not recognize a killer whale as a potential predator. Their diets vary from one region to another, but mostly consist of fishes, squids, seabirds (including penguins), and marine mammals.

Killer whales live in all the oceans of the world. They’re most abundant in the Arctic, Antarctic, and areas of cold water upwelling where the nutrient-rich water is full of marine life to feast on. They live in pods — cohesive long-term social groups primarily composed of matrilineal groups that include a female whale, her offspring, and often her grandchildren.

Our relationship with these magnificent rulers of the sea spans decades, during which time some incredible human/animal connections have formed. Click here to learn more about our care for killer whales, and here to see how our research helps whales in the wild. It’s with the whales in our care that you can see what truly sets SeaWorld apart. Their unique personalities and long-standing relationships with their trainers show that when you open your mind and heart to the languages humans and animals share, nearly anything is possible.

Treat your family or the animal lover in your life to an unforgettable experience—and a meal that will fuel your fun all day long. Join Shamu and his animal trainers backstage for one of our exclusive poolside dining opportunities, Dine With Shamu.

Q: How big do they get?
SW: Adult killer whale sizes vary. At SeaWorld, the average length for adult males is just over 21.5 feet — taller than two stories on its side! Females average closer to 18 feet.

Q: Are they endangered?
SW: Though killer whales are the top predator of the sea with no natural predators of their own, all killer whales are threatened by pollution and overfishing. The Southern Resident population of killer whales in the eastern North Pacific Ocean is officially listed as endangered.

Q: Why is the dorsal fin curved?
SW: Killer whale dorsal fins come in many shapes and sizes; they may be straight, wavy, curved, or bent. The fins lack any supportive bone or muscle. An adult male’s dorsal fin is tall (up to 6 feet!) and triangular while a female’s shorter fin curves back.

Q: How many killer whales have been born at SeaWorld?
SW: SeaWorld’s first Baby Shamu was born in 1985. Since then, more than 20 killer whales have been born at SeaWorld parks. SeaWorld’s unparalleled breeding success contributes significant information to studies of killer whale reproduction, growth, and development.