Also known as the 'Killer Whale', the Orca one of the top predators in the world's oceans; they feed on fish, porpoises and, in Shetland and Orkney, on seals. When hunting, they often make coordinated attacks and will take on large whales in this manner. The Orca is actually the largest member of the dolphin family, with males reaching about the same size as four cars!
How to identify
The black and white pattern and enormous dorsal fin make the Orca, if seen well, unmistakable. Males are larger than females and have much taller dorsal fins, sometimes up to 1.8 metres tall.
Where to find it
A rare, summer visitor to the coasts of northern Ireland and western and northern Scotland. Particularly frequent around the Shetland and Orkney Islands.
When to find it
How can people help
Orcas are threatened by hunting, prey depletion and disturbance from boats. As a top predator, they are also susceptible to the build-up of chemicals in the food chain. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. This work has recently had a massive boost with the passing of the Marine Bill, promising sustainable development of the UK's marine environment. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.