KIller whales of Sea Lion Island


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Table of contents

Predation on different species

Failed predations

Social behaviour

Sexual behaviour

Interactions with humans


A sample of killer whale behaviours

A short trailer on the behaviour of Sea Lion Island killer whales.


Predation on different species


Killing of an elephant seal female

Observing killer whales from the air (drone) gives an invaluable perspective on their behaviour, which is very difficult to appreciate from shore or even from a boat. Here we captured the predation of a female elephant seal by a group of killer whales (actually the joint effort of two matrilineal pods) at Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands. The female elephant seal just finished her breeding/suckling period on land and was ready to go back to sea for her post-breeding feeding trip. Killer whales were patrolling in the area and saw her leaving, immediately chasing and getting her. The cooperative behaviour of the killer whales while handling the prey, killing it and consuming it can be well appreciated.


Chasing streamer ducks

Killer whales are famous for their hunting ability. At Sea Lion Island they usually come to prey on seals and sea lions. But in this occasion we witnessed (from drone) them going after a steamer duck. The orcas involved in this event are mainly the calves of the Puma pod, who seemed to be enjoing to play with the little duck, which was dead after a short time. They kept playing with it for a long time, without actually eating it, and finally left the area carrying it around, as a baby toy. This is probably a "training" behaviour, where younger individuals mimic what they will do in real hunting events.


Failed predations


Not seeing the prey

Killer whales Puma and sons patrolling the famous "weaners pool" area at Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands, always looking for a fatty and tasty elephant seal to get ! But this time, while observing them using a drone, we were very surprised to see them passing at one meter distance from a female elephant seal without apparently seeing her at all ! Good for the elephant, probably her lucky day ! And puzzling for us, still not sure about how they really locate their preys when so close to shore.


Sea lion close encounter

Beautiful drone footage of a close encounter between a sea lion and killer whales at Sea Lion Island (Falkland Islands). The sea lion was probably heading to the beach and almost swimmed directly into their mouth :-) But it was quick enough to escape !!! Killer whales kept looking for it in the kelp and around rocks well after it was already far away.


Orcas and stranded southern right whale

In March 2019 we found a dead southern right whale stranded at Sea Lion Island (Falkland Islands). Killer whales of the LOLA’s pod were around and when they arrived in the bay they looked very interested in the matter…and quite a lot frustrated ! They kept patrolling the area for a few hours, and kept approaching the carcass without being able to actually reach for it. The potentially huge dinner was just a few meters too far ! They finally left …presumably not very happy !


Social behaviour


Swimming in shallow waters

Orcas PUMA and sons playing in shallow water at Sea Lion Island (Falkland Islands) during 2016 season. Images taken from drone are helping us better understanding the social behaviour of these amazing animals !


Killer whale swimming class

Sometime more than one pod of orcas is present at Sea Lion Island (Falkland Islands) at the same time. When different pods meet they often show very interesting social and play behaviors. In November 2018 Puma’s pod and Lola+Carla’s pod met and were all together apparently playing very close to the beach, where they like to come meters from shore. Surprisingly, all of a sudden, female CARLA started pushing one of the smallest calves towards the beach. The “human” impression was that she was trying to strand it, which looked quite strange. Other orcas apparently came to help the little one, which at the end rejoined the rest of the group and kept playing and splashing around. Perhaps it was just a very tough swimming class ! We still understand very little of these magnificent animals ! But drone imagery is helping us capturing behaviors almost impossible to witness from shore.


Sexual behaviour


Male courting calf, calf courting male

Amazing drone videos of the unusual sexual behaviour of an adult and a calf killer whale at Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands. In November 2018 orca adult males OVO and PINNONE met a group of females and calves very close to the shore. OVO started following the group and after a while focused on the younger calves, while the females remained farther apart. After a little while OVO started to follow a specific (male) calf, apparently trying to mate. Shortly after, the calf also showed sexual behaviour towards OVO. The same kind of behaviours went on for more than an hour, while females where apparently not interested at all, and the other adult male, PINNONE, was just resting still on the sea floor (he can be seen midway in the video). This is the first time that we have been able to get drone footages of sexual behaviour by Sea Lion Island killer whales. To our best knowledge, the sexual behaviour of wild southern hemisphere killer whales has been rarely observed.


Interactions with humans


Close encounter with kayaks

Close encounter between mammal eating orcas and kayaks ! A few days ago a cruise ship landed at Sea Lion Island. 4 kayaks went into the water from the main boat. Orcas PUMA and sons were close by, patrolling as usual the beaches and rocks in search of elephant seals. All of a sudden, when kayaks were still at about 300/400 m away, PUMA suddenly left her newborn calf Micky and all the other ones and rushed towards the kayaks. From the air it appeared as a true chase. Once arrived at the kayaks she stopped under them and quickly left again, while the other arrived, turned under the kayaks as well and then left as well. Not sure how they perceived the kayaks, they were roughly same size as them, but at the beginning her behaviour was at least worrying. Mammal eating orcas probably has a prey search image not that different from a kayak silhouette. After the encounter the whole pod left the area; we don't know if this was as a consequence of the encounter or they would have left anyway.


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