An ace swimmer that can outpace most boats with relative ease, but closely match their speed if it chooses, the common dolphin is one of a large bunch of impressive sea mammals in Scottish waters. Common dolphins sometimes form large groups, their sheer strength of numbers adding to the spectacle for anyone lucky enough to be watching from nearby.
What to look for
Common dolphins have beautiful markings - admired by artists since ancient times - that blend of black, white, grey and yellow. They like to bow-ride, swimming at the prow of a boat and matching its speed, until they get bored and zoom off to show how the professionals move through the ocean.
Like all ‘cetaceans’ - whales, dolphins and porpoises - common dolphins have a complex system of calls. They use a mixture of clicks, whistles and other noises to communicate with each other and to help them find and capture prey. Bottlenose dolphins have personalised call-signs that seem to be used to identify that individual within a group and it’s possible that common dolphins could also do this.
When and where to see
Summer in the Hebrides is a good time to be on the look-out for schools of common dolphins. Waters around the Small Isles, Tiree, Coll and Mull are hotspots. Look from the regular inter-island ferries or take tours with an accredited operator from Mull, Skye or Arisaig.
For more information see the common dolphin on Marlin.