ID of common dolphins

Hey all.

In the 1990s Common Dolphin was split into long-beaked and short-beaked forms and counted as two different species. Currently they are lumped. According to Bernardo Alps (see below), the work to re-split them is ongoing. To tell them apart, go to the 45 minute mark of his talk on the LA Birders website.

In Oct 2022 he did a talk focused on Southern California titled “marine mammals for pelagic birders,” but the ID tips apply to entire West Coast. (He also cleared up a mystery for me. As a young birder, I distinctly remember pilot whales being reported from pelagic trips, yet since then I have never seen them in California. Apparently gill-net fishery and perhaps an El Nino year did them in just as I learned about them. Now they are gone.)

He has very specific tips on field ID of the two forms / species of common dolphins. See them now, count them later — like money in the bank.

Talk is archived on YouTube for free.

If that does not work, go to LA Birders at

and look for their webinar series.

Charles Hood / hoodcw at


  • Vladimir Dinets

    I thought only the Californian ones have been re-split?

  • Charles Hood

    Not un-lumped yet? The Society for Marine Mammals has a checklist with four named sub-types of common dolphin; for now, all are the same master species. The proposed split would end up with “Eastern North Pacific Long-beaked Common Dolphin” as one of the two Calif forms — a name worse even than most bird names. The Latin name would be Delphinus bairdii. (So why not “Baird’s common dolphin” then?) First though one has to tell the two apart, hence this video lesson.

  • Vladimir Dinets

    Yeah, what’s wrong with “Californian dolphin”?

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