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Types of Toothed Whales Seen Off of San Diego

Between the months of December and April, whale watchers from all over the country venture to the California coast to witness whales of all shapes and sizes migrate north to Mexico. Baleen whales, gray whales in particular, are thought to be the most spotted in San Diego. However, toothed whales in San Diego are more common than you may think.

Fun fact: whales, dolphins and porpoises are all the same species called cetaceans. The most commonly seen toothed whales seen off of San Diego are all different types of dolphins! There are more than five breeds of San Diego dolphins spotted off the coast: common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, risso dolphins and pacific white sided dolphins.

animal on the water

Most Commonly Seen Toothed Whales Seen

1. Common Dolphins vs. Bottlenose Dolphins

Common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins look the most similar. The easiest way to distinguish them is that the bottlenose dolphins have a short, bulbous beak. The common smaller toothed whales San Diego are between 5-5.5 feet while the bottlenose dolphins are between 8-12 feet. Both types of dolphins can be found swimming along the coast, but bottlenose dolphins are better known for their appearance in shows and zoos.

2. Risso Dolphins

The risso dolphin is one of the more unique looking toothed whales in San Diego. Showing a slight resemblance to a norwal, the risso dolphin has a very round head and body. They are seen most often when there is a large squid presence in the water given that is their primary source of food.

3. Pacific White Sided Dolphins

Pacific White Sided dolphins are by far the most sleek San Diego dolphins. They are easily distinguishable from the other toothed dolphins given their unique markings with grey on the top and bottom with white stripes on the sides. In addition, they travel in large pods and are known to be the most social amongst other whales and dolphins.