Orcas in Iceland are frequently observed feeding on herring but they have also been reported to feed on a variety of other prey including birds, cephalopods, marine mammals and other fish species. To date we have identified over 400 whales occurring in Iceland. Using photo-identification we can build a register of all the individual whales we have seen (see our photo-identification catalogue in pdf).
This register can be used by everyone including whale-watchers to compare with the whales they sighted. Using this information, we can understand if whales are previously known or could potentially be new visitors to the region. This is crucial to our understanding of the large-scale movements and habits of whales occurring in Iceland. If you would like to submit a sighting and contribute to our photo-identification catalogue, please contact us here.
Orca lives seem to be determined by their diet, for them you really are what you eat! That is why understanding their foraging ecology is of such paramount importance. Fish-eating orcas display different behaviours, communication patterns and social structure when compared to mammal-eating orcas elsewhere in the world. Our knowledge of how orcas in Iceland behave, associate and communicate is still in its infancy in comparison to other population worldwide, but we have started making some progress towards understanding some of these aspects. For example, we have catalogued calls produced by the population (see our call catalogue. To listen to examples of each call, please open the audible call catalogue in acrobat reader) and we are now trying to understand who produces each call, when they produce them and why. You can listen to some of the sounds that orcas in Iceland make on our Soundcloud page.
When we find a group of whales we can identify every single whale and build a long-tem picture of who they choose to associate with, what they do, where they go and what they eat. Only through many years of collecting this type of data will we be able to build a clear picture of the lives of these long-lived top predators. Without that information we cannot fully understand the conservation status of the Icelandic orcas, or what they need to ensure a healthy population lives on for generations to come.
We are passionate about sharing the knowledge we gather about orcas through our research. In addition to participating in scientific conferences and meetings, we regularly give lectures to tourists, naturalists and whale-watching guides, school children and pretty much anyone interested in learning about orcas in Iceland. We also love to take part in initiatives that help share information about protecting our oceans and the wildlife that depends on them. For example, we recently were patrons for an illustrated children’s book about the need to protect our oceans and water resources (in polish, called Orka W Wannie).
Check our Facebook page for the latest updates or contact us if you would like to request a lecture.
IN THE PRESS
Science Friday - Mapping the Journey of Marine Animal Migrations
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung - Jeder Wal ist anders
Fiskifréttir - Grindhvalir elta háhyrninga (print only)
Hakai Magazine - One Ocean, Many Killer Whale Cultures!
Where the Animals Go - The Whales We Watch on Facebook
BBC World Service - Why are these Icelandic orcas in Scotland?
National Geographic Portugal - As voltas das orcas
Frétablaðid - Ferðir hvala skýrast með hjálp Facebook
BBC Two - Natural World “Killer whales: Beneath the Surface”
National Geographic - Weekend radio show episode 1331
Teledyne blog - The case of herring-eating killer whales
Eyjafréttir - Stýrkt af Rannís og National Geographic (print only)
PRESS: Please contact us with general enquiries or specific requests for images, videos and audio to accompany stories on the project, cetaceans in Iceland, or orcas in general.