Biology and behavior of killer whales

by Robin W. Baird, Cascadia Research

See updates from our September 2009 field project

See updates from our September 2008 field project

Since 1985 a large proportion of the research I have undertaken has focused on killer whales. My Ph.D. research through Simon Fraser University, completed in 1994, focused on the foraging behavior and ecology of the mammal-eating transient killer whales, but I have also studied the behavior of fish-eating residents in Washington, British Columbia and Alaska, as well as the behavior of killer whales in Iceland, and some work with killer whales in Mexico and Hawaii. A list of publications and reports on this research (including pdf files) is below.

Current projects focus on the 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 we deployed one Crittercam 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.

Publications and reports on killer whales

Books and book chapters

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


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

Peer-reviewed publications

Reports and conference presentations

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

Updated May 2009.

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

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