FOLLOWUP: J-Pod’s new baby orca reveals gender

(Photo by Maya Sears, NMFS Permit 27052)

Back on Tuesday, we published photographer Brittany Noelle‘s report about discovering a new baby orca with the Southern Residents’ J-Pod. Now whale advocates are excited about the calf’s relatively speedy gender reveal. He showed himself to West Seattle researchers Mark and Maya Sears, and The Whale Trail‘s Donna Sandstrom sent us their photos and details last night:

Mark and Maya Sears were out with J pod again (Thursday). They encountered J60, and confirmed he is a male! They encountered the whales near Point No Point on the north end of Bainbridge Island.

It can sometimes takes a while to determine gender of an orca – when they are young, the only way to tell them apart is by the markings on their underbellies. A whale has to roll over so the markings are visible – which J60 did (Thursday), twice!

(Photo by Maya Sears, NMFS Permit 27052)

J60’s mom is J40 (aka Suttles), a 19-year-old female. This is her first calf (that we know of). Maya said that J46, a 13-yr-old female named Star, spent a lot of time around the new calf too.

An interesting bit of history – Mark and Maya were the first people to spot J40 in 2004, when she was a newborn calf. The Sears encountered J40 and her mom J14 (Samish) mid-channel between Lincoln Park and Blake Island on December 21, 2004:

(2004 photo of then-newborn J40 and J14, by Mark Sears)

Nearly nineteen years to the day after they spotted J40, they spotted her first calf (J60).

There’s long been speculation that central Puget Sound is a calving ground for the southern residents. At least for J pod, that appears to be true!

(Photo by Maya Sears, NMFS Permit 27052)

There are now 10 calves under five years old in the southern resident population, and six of those are female. The future of the population is here! Whether they survive and thrive into adulthood is up to us.

Here’s how people can help:
-Give the orcas the acoustic space they need to forage, rest, and socialize.
-Watch southern residents from shore, and stay 1000 yards away from them at sea..
-Take the pledge at and encourage your friends to take it too.
-Download the free app Whale Alert to learn when southern residents are near. Share any whale sightings with the app too..

This year Washington State passed legislation to establish a 1000-yard acoustic buffer around the orcas. The setback will become mandatory in 2025 – a welcome step forward. But the orcas need our help today. Take the pledge and help us give J60 a fighting chance!

J60’s birth brings the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales’ population to 76.

9 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: J-Pod's new baby orca reveals gender"

  • justme December 29, 2023 (7:41 am)

    Love this! Thank you for sharing heartwarming content. 

  • josh December 29, 2023 (8:56 am)

    I know you are reposting an article that references the whales gender and as such also described the whales gender.  The gender of the whale is unknown as gender is a social construct and we humans do not understand orca culture well enough to know if they have gender and if so what their gender would be.The thing that was revealed was the sex of the whale.  The sex is male. While this seems pedantic it is a critical misuse of language that leads to much confusion. And given how this confusion is being used as wedge to drive us apart it seems important to point out.

  • Excited in WS December 29, 2023 (9:14 am)

    This makes me so happy! 

  • waikikigirl December 29, 2023 (9:26 am)

    Just like most little boys..they love to show off! 😉.    “A whale has to roll over so the markings are visible – which J60 did (Thursday), twice!”

  • anonyme December 29, 2023 (9:46 am)

    A female would have been better for the pod, but any calf is good news.   I can’t help but wonder when looking at the photos what it was like for these orcas more than a hundred (or two, or…) years ago in these same waters.  Clean water, abundant food, and a quiet, safe calving area.  And then came us.

    • BlairJ December 29, 2023 (10:16 am)

      Well, then came the rest of us.

  • Deb December 29, 2023 (12:01 pm)

    This is just wonderful news. Thank you for the Orca photos, the Orca history and the reminders of how to help this little fellow thrive!  

  • LivesInWS December 29, 2023 (7:37 pm)

    “…reveals gender” “Gender”? This is an orca calf, so that would be “sex.” (Clinician here who likes science language.) Yeah, sometimes “gender” is used as a prudish substitute for “sex,” but this is about a mammal’s biology, so the term would be “sex.”May the calf and his pod members live long and healthy lives!

  • Niki January 4, 2024 (8:08 pm)

    Great work Maya !!!!!!! Tcs. ;) 

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