The southern resident killer whales (SRKWs) are fish-eating orcas that frequent the Salish Sea and are heard live on the Orcasound hydrophones every few days during the summer months. They emit a wonderfully diverse repertoire of calls — almost 40 distinct signals within the hearing range of humans — but most of us would be hard-pressed to learn to recognize them all.

Conveniently, a few calls are used almost exclusively by each southern resident pod. This means that by memorizing just 3 calls, you can tell with great certainty that you are hearing a particular pod of orcas!

We present them below as: a modern spectrogram; a clip taken from the original tapes (Ford-Osborne, circa 1981); and the spectrogram presented in the original call classification catalog (Ford 1987 – A catalogue of underwater calls produced by killer whales (Orcinus orca) in British Columbia). To download the audio files, you can click on the little “down-arrow” on the right side of each web-based player below, or you can download the audio files using the handy links we provide at the bottom of the page.


J pod’s favorite call (“S-01”)


K pod’s favorite call (“S-16”)


L pod’s favorite call (“S-19”)


Handy download links:

Here are links to the three calls in mp3 format, ogg format, or both!