Common Dolphins

Scientific Name:  Delphinus delphis

When is the best time to view Common Dolphins in Monterey Bay and where is the best viewing?

Common dolphins are most often spotted in Monterey Bay in later summer through the winter months. They typically swim in schools of hundreds and sometimes in a pod of thousands which sometimes makes them easy to spot.

The best viewing of common dolphins is at sea on a boat as dolphins sometimes enjoy bow-riding and showing off their natural acrobatic talent. There are several whale watching boat excursions leaving daily from Fisherman’s Wharf or Moss Landing. 

Common dolphins can also occasionally be seen from land. We recommend keeping an eye on the ocean for dolphins and other sea life when exploring Fisherman’s Wharf, the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and traveling along Highway 1 towards Big Sur. 


About Common Dolphins

The common dolphin is the most colorful dolphin. This dolphin has geometric patterns and yellowish side patches. Common dolphins have recently been separated into two species, the long-beaked and short-beaked dolphins.  Both species are spotted in Monterey Bay but do not appear to mix and swim in separate schools.

The majority of a common dolphin’s diet comes from squid and schools of small fish. However, individual dolphins can be quite picky about the type of food they prefer. They usually feed at night and rest during the day. The common dolphin has up to 57 pairs of teeth on both the upper and lower jaws. They use their teeth to hold prey but do not chew. Their prey has to be small enough for them to swallow. This dolphin can consume about 5% of their body weight daily, which equals about 15 pounds.

Sexual maturity ranges from two to seven years old in female common dolphins and three to twelve years old in males. The length of a dolphin can play more of a role in determining when they are mature enough to mate than their age. A common dolphin is usually ready to mate when it is six to seven feet in length. Mating typically occurs between June and September. Females give birth once every one to three years with a gestation of ten to eleven months.


Common Dolphin Fun Facts

  • Other names include hourglass, crisscross or saddleback dolphin
  • The largest pod of common dolphins seen numbered over 10,000 individuals
  • Common dolphins can dive to depths of 840 feet
  • Common dolphins can swim up to 30 mph
  • Baby dolphins, known as calves, are 2 ½ to 3 feet long at birth

Habitat: Open waters, all tropical and temperate oceans. 

Length: 7.5 – 8.5 feet

Weight: average 170 pounds; up to 300 pounds

Diet: Fish, squid and other cephalopods

Lifespan: 35 years