Short Beaked Common Dolphins

Delphinus delphis

San Diego is the year round home to the Short Beaked Common Dolphin, not to be confused with the Long Beaked Common dolphin – which we also encounter. These dolphins (Delphinus delphis) form some of the largest pods of dolphins we encounter in southern California, some days over 1,000 can be seen. These pods are often encountered in near offshore waters as they travel or forage for their meals during the day. These are amazing opportunities to observe one of the most charismatic species dolphin as the Short Beaked Common dolphin is one of the most colorful species and also known for their acrobatic surface behaviors. Be sure to follow our Instagram and Facebook pages for daily sightings reports of the different cetacean species we encounter on our San Diego whale and dolphin watching tours, like the short beaked common dolphin.

Common Dolphin Info

Description – Short Beaked Common dolphins are a small dolphin species, usually less than 6 feet long and weighing less than 180 pounds. While they do have a typical counter-shaded coloration (dark dorsally and light ventrally) they have a very unique ‘side panel’ of yellow that makes them one of the most dramatically colored dolphins. They have a high dorsal fin and a rounded melon. The Common dolphins we see in San Diego often have a light patch on the sides of their dorsal fin and a relatively muted yellow ‘side panel’.

Range – The Short Beaked Common dolphin is found offshore in warm to temperate oceans throughout the globe, with geographical areas of abundance. The Short Beaked Common dolphin we encounter are associated with the California Current and therefore found throughout the year in San Diego.

Behavior – One of our favorite species to observe, the Short Beaked Common dolphin are typically active and seem to seek out our whale watching boat. They are very acrobatic with leaps, tail slaps and head slaps when not bow riding.

The population estimate is over 900,000 along the west coast of the US and not surprisingly, they are the most frequently observed cetacean species on our trips. They can be found in groups of 30-40 and sometimes in the range of 500+


The biggest threat to the California Short Beaked Common dolphin population is the drift gill net fishery here. They are the most frequently killed cetacean species by the California drift gill net fishery.

Short Beaked Common dolphins are also affected by; ocean pollution (plastics, heavy metals and chemicals), noise pollution and habitat degradation.

Currently a bill to ban the drift net gill fishery practice is working its way through the levels of government. This may be the largest single action to ensure healthy populations of Short Beaked Common dolphins in San Diego and California.