Toothed Whales

White Beaked Dolphins, Harbour Porpoises & Killer Whales

Dolphins and porpoises in Faxaflói Bay


“Did you know that the whistle of the white-beaked dolphin reaches a so-called ultrasonic frequency, or up to 150 kHz, a higher frequency than most other animal species.”

Size: 2.4-3 m (8-10 ft)

Weight: 180 - 350 kg (400-770 lb)

Diet: Mostly cod and haddock, also capelin, herring, sandeels and pollock

White-beaked dolphins are toothed whales belonging to the dolphin family and are one of the most common whales found by
the shores of Iceland. White-beaked dolphins are solidly built and more thickset than other species of dolphins, a characteristic
of smaller whales that have adapted to colder habitats. White-beaked dolphins are most often seen in smaller groups, although
occasionally several groups will merge into larger pods with over 1,500 animals. Its name is derived from its light-coloured or
white beak. White-beaked dolphins are very curious and often swim in the bow waves alongside fast ships and boats thus a common companion of whale watchers in Faxaflói bay.




“Did you know that killer whale communities possess rich cultures which shape what and how killer whales eat, what they do for fun, even their choice of mates. Also, as a result they communicate in distinct ‘dialects’ and even ‘languages’”

Size:  Males = 6 - 10 m (20-33 ft.) and Females = 5-8.5 m (16 - 28 ft.). Size varies geographically with larger animals in the Southern Hemisphere

Weight: Males = up to 10 tonnes and Females = up to 7.5 tonnes

Diet: Extremely diverse and can range from small schooling fish such as capelin up to large baleen whales

Killer whales (Orcinus orca), or orcas, are toothed whales belonging to the dolphin family. They are the largest dolphin species, reaching lengths of up to 10 m (33 ft.) and weights of up to 10 tonnes. The black and white colouring, robust body and tall dorsal fin give the whales a somewhat chilling yet majestic and beautiful appearance. They are often called the “wolfs of the sea” due to their often cruel hunting methods. They are most definitely at the top of the food chain. Killer whales hunt in packs and are highly organised. Younger animals in the group are taught specialised hunting tactics by the older animals. During training, the young animals are allowed to practice with the half-unconscious prey, which makes it seem as though the whales are playing with the prey for no reason. The real reason involves training. Killer whales are unbelievably willing to learn, have developed quite complex communication system and also form lifelong, deep ties within the group.




“Did you know that relative to body size the male harbour porpoise has the largest testis of all cetaceans in the world”

Size:  Females = 160 cm (63 in) and Males = 145 cm (57 in)

Weight: Females ≥ 60 kg (132 lb) and Males = 50 kg (110 lb)

Diet: Variety of fish depending on availability such as squids, herring, capelin and cod fishes

The harbour porpoise is the smallest cetacean found in Icelandic waters, and is actually one of the smallest marine mammals in the world. The harbour porpoise is not a dolphin but belongs to a family called Phocoenidae. Only seven species of porpoises exists in the world today and the harbour porpoise is the most widely distributed one, but the harbour porpoise is the only porpoise species living in the North Atlantic Ocean. Porpoises have in common a short and stocky body which enables them to limit heat loss in cold waters. Apart from their characteristic body shape, the porpoises can be recognized from their round and oval head which lacks the pronounced snout, the common characteristics of dolphins. The harbour porpoise is extremely fast and agile swimmer which can make them very challenging to spot out at sea. However, they are commonly spotted in whale watching tours from Reykjavík, usually not far out off the harbour.