Biology and behavior of killer whales

(c) Robin W. Baird

Since it's inception Cascadia Research biologists working in the field have taken photos of killer whales when encountered and contributed them to a variety of research projects being undertaken along the west coast of North America. Starting in 2003 Cascadia began a variety of research efforts focused on killer whales, most in collaboration with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center of NOAA Fisheries and a continuation of long-term studies of killer whales being undertaken by Robin Baird. Current projects focus on studying the underwater acoustics and behavior of Southern Resident killer whales using DTAGs, diving behavior of mammal-eating killer whales, movement patterns of mammal-eating killer whales, and a study of diet and behavioral cues of predation in fish-eating killer whales. This latter project was begun in 2002 in collaboration with Dr. Brad Hanson of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and involves collecting fecal samples (for genetic analysis of diet) and prey remains left behind foraging whales. As part of the effort to examine diet and underwater behavior, with Greg Marshall and Dr. Mike Heithaus of the National Geographic Television Remote Imaging Program a Crittercam was deployed on a fish-eating "southern resident" killer whale (K25) in 2002, obtaining the first underwater video footage collected from a killer whale. Unfortunately the whale was not foraging while the camera was attached, but the video footage obtained (see above) does demonstrate that this technique should be useful to examine underwater feeding.

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Publications and reports on killer whales

Books, book chapters and popular articles

Killer whales of the world: natural history and conservation. Book by R.W. Baird published jointly by Colin Baxter Photography in Europe and Voyageur Press in North America in 2002, and reprinted as a softcover by Voyageur Press in 2006. This book is no longer in print, but the 2002 UK version is available here as a pdf to download


The killer whale - foraging specializations and group hunting. A review chapter by R.W. Baird published in the book Cetacean Societies in 2000 by the University of Chicago Press. Download Adobe PDF copy

Predators, prey, and play: killer whales and other marine mammals. An article by R.W. Baird published in Whalewatcher in 2011. Download PDF copy

Peer-reviewed publications

Reports and conference presentations

See updates from our September 2009 field project

See updates from our September 2008 field project

For more information on this research write to: rwbaird (at)

Updated December 2014.

Photographs on this page (c) Robin W. Baird 2000. Use of photos only with permission of Robin W. Baird

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