Short-Beaked Common Dolphin

Delphinus delphis

What do they look like?

These dolphins have dark backs and white undersides. They are most easily recognised by the hourglass-shaped patch on their sides, which is yellow in front of their dorsal fins and light grey towards the tail. They are similar to long beaked dolphins but can be identified for their more rounded heads and shorter beaks. Their dorsal fins are triangular and tall with a slight backwards curve. Common dolphins are also very acrobatic, often leaping fully out of the water, with top swimming speeds of 15 miles per hour or more.

Where can I see them in Scotland?

Though the short beaked dolphins are in fact an offshore species, they are commonly found close to coastal shores. Interestingly, sightings have become more common around the Scottish coast, probably as a result of climate change. As the waters around Scotland become warmer, these dolphins have moved further north than recorded in years past. They can be seen throughout the UK’s seas but are most frequently spotted off the west coast, the coast of Aberdeenshire and in the outer Moray Firth.

Fun Fact
Being a highly sociable animal, short beaked dolphins are found in large groups. These typically consist of 10 to 50 animals but can sometimes be comprised of hundreds or even thousands of individuals.

Up to 35 years
2.4 - 2.7 metres
Least Concern
IUCN conservation status

Find out more about cetaceans
Not many people know that Scotland has some of the best whale and dolphin watching opportunities in Europe. Discover more about which species you can spot, how scientists are monitoring their numbers, fun facts, crafts and more inside our cetaceans Dive-in pack.

A group of 4 volunteers gaze out to sea through their binoculars on a bright day in North Berwick with scattered clouds.
© Jess Thompson

We’re excited to be supporting a Whale and Dolphin Conservation Shorewatch site here in North Berwick! WDC Shorewatch is a network of volunteers trained to monitor whales and dolphins at sites around the Scottish coastline, raising awareness and capturing vital data to protect these amazing species.

The Seabird Centre Catamaran tour boat as it cruises around a Bass Rock that is bright white with breeding gannets.
© Rob McDougall

Wildlife Boat Trips
Whales and dolphins are regular visitors to the Firth of Forth and can sometimes be spotted from our guided wildlife boat trips and from the shore.

Want to find out more about cetaceans in Scotland?

Visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation website or the Sea Watch Foundation website for more information.

Two Short-Beaked Common Dolphins leap out of the water in a calm, rippling, grey-blue sea.
(c) Emma Steel