Most life history data about orcas has been obtained from long-term surveys of the population off the coasts of British Columbia and Washington and by monitoring captive whales. Due to the completeness of the study and highly structured nature of the pods in this population, the information is detailed and accurate; however, transient groups and groups in other oceans may have slightly different characteristics. Females become mature at around 15 years of age. From then they have periods of polyestrous cycling with non-cycling periods of between three and sixteen months. The gestation period varies from fifteen to eighteen months. Mothers calve, with a single offspring, about once every five years.













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In analysed resident pods, birth occurs at any time of year, with the most popular months being those in winter. New-born mortality is very high — one survey suggested that nearly half of all calves fail to reach the age of six months. Calves nurse for up to two years, but will start to take solid food at about twelve months. Mothers breed until the age of 40, meaning that on average they raise five children. Typically females live to the age of fifty, but may survive well into their eighties or nineties in exceptional cases. Males become sexually active at the age of 15, and live to about 30 on average, and to 50 in exceptional cases.


001-002.jpg courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service
003-024.jpg courtesy National Undersea Research Program















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