San Diego’s diverse wildlife doesn’t end at its shores. Much of the local wildlife extends far out in the oceans. There are birds and animals that live full-time out at sea and never come on shore. These include cetaceans, such as whales and dolphins. One of these cetaceans, the common dolphin, can easily be seen all year around.
There are actually two types of common dolphins that visit the waters off of San Diego’s shores: The long-nosed and short-nosed. Both look extremely similar, except that they’re entirely different species. Unlike the common gray bottlenose porpoise everyone is familiar with from TV and movies, these dolphins are actually quite colorful. Their bodies have varying patterns of blue-gray, dark gray, whitish-yellow, and medium-gray. They are usually around 2 meters long and can weigh up to 300 pounds.
Common dolphins are often seen riding bow waves from a small or medium-sized boat. They are also commonly seen on whale watching tours associating with other cetaceans. This summer, several hundred to a thousand have been seen in the company of blue whales. Not only are they found off of San Diego’s shores, they are found in many other places in the world such as the Mediterranean Sea and off the coasts of South America and Africa. They are extremely social and prefer to be in large pods.
The best way to see these dolphins is to take a boat offshore during good weather. There, you will see them in large pods that seem undisturbed by humans in a boat. They are not commonly kept in zoos and aquariums unless they’re being rehabilitated. Common dolphins are said to easily hybridize with bottle-nosed dolphins and there is said to be one of these hybrids at the local Sea World. Occasionally, they may be seen from the shore and in the local bays, though it is uncommon.