Animals Hector's Dolphin Photo By James Shook

Published on May 30th, 2013 | by Yellow Magpie


Hector’s Dolphin: New Zealand’s Small Resident Dolphin

Hector’s Dolphin Photo By James Shook

The Hector’s Dolphin is the smallest of all the dolphins. Found only off the coast of New Zealand this colourful creature is often mistaken for a porpoise.

The Hector’s Dolphin is the smallest member of an exclusive group of four species. This group includes the Commerson’s Dolphin, the Heaviside’s Dolphin and the Chilean Dolphin.

Physical Characteristics Of Hector’s Dolphin

The Hector’s Dolphin is one of the smallest dolphin species. It is so small that it is sometimes mistakenly identified as a porpoise. The dolphin is a mixture of varying shades of grey from dark blue to a light grey. It has an underside of white and a peculiar white band that is visible on its flank.

The white band and a very rounded dorsal fin are what give the Hector’s Dolphin its distinctive appearance. The Hector’s Dolphin is relatively stocky and like other dolphins mentioned above it possesses no prominent beak or mask.

Hector's Dolphin Photo By Dr. Mridula Srinivasan, NOAA NMFS OST AMD

Females are larger than their male counterparts. Though the difference between the two sexes is not as pronounced as with other cetaceans.

Diet And Behaviour

Hector’s Dolphins have a highly varied diet. They feed on many types of fish, crustaceans and Cephalopoda. Opportunistic feeders, only size seems to be the limiting factor as to what they will or will not eat.

Hector’s Dolphins seem to thrive in shallow coastal waters with an average depth less than 100 metres (330 feet). They are usually found within eight kilometres (five miles) of the coast.

Hector’s Dolphins are found in small pods of between two and ten members. They sometimes congregate in groups of a hundred or more individuals. Although these pods are transitory in nature.

Hector's Dolphin Trio Photo By Dr. Mridula Srinivasan, NOAA NMFS OST AMD

Hector’s Dolphins And Conservation

Hector’s Dolphins have a low birthrate with fertile females only having one calf every two to fours years. This puts them at risk from predation and human activities.

Sharks and Orcas are thought to be the main threats to Hector’s Dolphins. Accidental bycatches are a major problem for the species and a particular concern are gillnets. These nets became such a problem that they have been banned in sensitive areas of New Zealand.

A protected species, there are thought to be in excess of 7,000 Hector’s Dolphins found off New Zealand’s North and South islands.

Hector's Dolphin Photo By Avenue Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Vital Statistics

  • Hector’s Dolphins are up to 1.6 metres (five feet) in length.
  • They can weigh up to 60 kilograms.
  • Hector’s Dolphins are found off the coast of New Zealand. They are believed to be exclusive to this area.
  • They can live to be as old as 25 years.

Recommended Reading

Visit Wikipedia for more information on Hector’s Dolphin.

Check out Yellow Magpie’s  Our Love Affair With Our Favourite Cetacean, Fin Whale: The Giant Speedster Of The Oceans and The Whales: Kings Of The Cetaceans for further insight into Whales and their cetacean cousins.

Among Giants: A Life With Whales is the fascinating story of underwater photographer, Charles ‘Flip’ Nicklin. Full of splendid pictures and insightful commentary about the whales this book is stunning.

You can obtain Among Giants: A Life with Whales here from Amazon.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Among Giants: A Life with Whales from here.
For Canada: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.
For Germany: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.
For France: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.

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