Why Do Orca Spy Hop?

Why Do Orca Spy Hop? Whale Watch Western Australia

Why do Orca spy hop? It is all to do with the vision of the Orca and ability to see what is happening above the waters surface as Swirl showed us today in spectacular style. Orca have brilliant vision both below and above the waters surface with a visual range of nearly 300 degrees enabling a panoramic view of their environment. Eyes are positioned either side of their head which enables the Orca a peripheral view to assist with locating prey and when combined with echolocation it results in a perfect hunting formula. Orca eyes are also able to work perfectly well in dim light due to a reflective layer behind the retina which enables them to work comfortably in the late afternoon or evening and at any water depth within their dive range. Maintaining a clear visual range is important to the Orca as it is a big part of their foraging process when looking for prey. Today we had the wonderful company of Cookie and her family along with Cooee and her pod members.

Travelling and covering ground efficiently we watched as Swirl launched upwards dramatically before sinking straight back down again, it was a very enthusiastic full body spy hop! Swirl was very interested in having a look at our position along with the secondary vessel, her visual range meant we were both clearly in her sight while her eyes were above water level. It was spectacular to watch her agility and control during what was a rather complex spy hop with so much momentum to lift her full body weight upwards. It was wonderful to watch as little Poppy decided she wanted to checkout what this spy hop business was all about as she spent the rest of her afternoon practicing after being inspired by Swirl. It is easy as a calf to get distracted which Poppy did on many occasions as in-between spy hops she would come over to visit us or spent time biting the oceans surface while completing a breach. Vision is very important to Orca and although not their main sense we do see on a daily basis the importance of sight for them and a spy hop is a great example of the Orca ensuring a good eye over activities above the waters surface.

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