What kinds of dolphins can you find in Ontario?
I don’t think there is anything better than watching dolphins! Their playful, gregarious nature makes them one of the most beloved animals in the world.
Below, you will find pictures and descriptions of the kinds of dolphins in Ontario. I’ve also included RANGE MAPS and fun facts about each species. And keep reading to the end of the article for the differences between Dolphins and Porpoises!
Although there are tons of interesting facts about dolphins, I kept each description brief to cover all the species. So, you may want to consider purchasing the book below if you want more information or need help with additional identification.
2 DOLPHINS Found in Ontario!
- I only included species that have “dolphin” or “porpoise” in their common name. For example, a Killer Whale (Orca) is in the dolphin family, but they are not included below.
#1. White-beaked Dolphin
- Lagenorhynchus albirostris
- 7.8 to 10.2 feet (2.4 to 3.1 meters) long, with a streamlined shape.
- The head and back are dark gray to black, with light gray to white patches on the sides, belly, and tail.
- The beak, or rostrum, is pale gray or white.
White-beaked Dolphins prefer VERY cold water. They live in the northern Atlantic Ocean in summer but often move closer to shore to avoid ice during winter. Observers often spot them around Massachusetts and Cape Cod, but they can also be found in sub-polar waters.
These dolphins are commonly known as “squid hounds” among fishermen. This is because they love to hunt squid and octopuses and congregate where they are plentiful! White-beaked Dolphins also work together to catch fast-swimming schooling fish such as herring, haddock, and cod.
White-beaked Dolphins generally live in groups of 5 to 30 dolphins, called pods. However, they are very social animals and can occasionally be spotted traveling in pods of more than a thousand. Some lucky observers have even seen them socializing and cooperating with other marine mammals, including humpback whales, sei whales, and other species of dolphins.
They’re fast and powerful swimmers and love to jump and surf. Look for them swimming in the bow waves of large ships and even playing in the wake of swimming whales. They are confident and curious and often approach boats.
#2. Atlantic White-sided Dolphin
- Lagenorhynchus acutus
- 8 to 9 feet (2.4 to 2.7 meters) long, slender, and streamlined with short, pointed rostrums (noses).
- Dark gray on the back from nose tip to tail, with white, cream, and gray patches along the sides.
- Their bellies are pale gray.
Look for Atlantic White-sided Dolphins in Ontario along the northern Atlantic coast.
Atlantic White-sided Dolphins were historically considered a pelagic species, meaning they spent much of their time far out to sea. However, in the 1970s, a decrease in the herring population appears to have changed their habitat preferences. As a result, these dolphins now appear more frequently in shallower coastal waters, where sand lance fish are abundant.
The best time to observe this species near the shore is during the summer months. In the winter, the dolphins travel further south and far from the coast.
Atlantic White-sided Dolphins are extremely agile and energetic swimmers. They can reach speeds of up to 27 miles per hour (43 kilometers per hour)! These dolphins are often seen bounding across the water in groups of 5 to 50.
They’re also highly social and can work with other animals to hunt. For example, Atlantic White-sided Dolphins cooperate with other dolphins and whales to encircle and trap schooling fish such as mackerel, herring, and sand lance. Whale-watchers often spot them feeding alongside humpback and fin whales.
The lifespan of Atlantic White-sided Dolphins can exceed 27 years. Females are pregnant for around one year, and summer is the most common season for calves to be born. Pods are organized by age and family group. For example, juveniles form their own pods, separate from mothers and calves.
Do you want to learn about LAND MAMMALS that are found in Ontario? Check out this field guide!
38 COMMON Mammals in Ontario! (ID Guide)
Which of these dolphins have you seen in Ontario?
Let us know in the comments!