Southern Resident Orcas

southern resident orcas j pod

This project is a family tree of the Southern Resident Orcas.

Shop the yarn here.

The southern residents are one of three groups of orcas, or killer whales, that live along the west coast of North America.  We will use these modern names in our work, but humans' relationship with orcas go back millennia and we have had many names for them in that time. Pacific Northwest First Nations orca names include:

  • Ka-kow-wud (Quillayute, Olympic Peninsula)
  • Klasqo’kapix (Makah, Olympic Peninsula)
  • Qaqawun (Nootka, west-side of Vancouver Island)
  • Max’inux (Kwakiutl, north Vancouver Island)
  • Ska-ana (Haida, Queen Charlotte Islands)


Our work is based on the Orca Survey published by the Center for Whale Research. Most of the information on this page is from their website and publications.

The southern resident orcas live in three separate families, named J pod, K pod, and L pod. Each pod has its own skein of yarn, where the colour and width of the stripes represent the age and sex of each individual orca. Above is a pair of socks knit from the J Pod colourway. Below are "colour maps" of the yarn showing the striping pattern. 


orca colour maps

J Pod

From the Center for Whale research: 

​J pod is the pod most likely to appear year-round in the waters of the San Juan Islands and Southern Gulf Islands, lower Puget Sound (near Seattle), and British Columbia’s Georgia Strait. This pod used to frequent the inland waters of the Salish Sea from late spring through early fall, but in recent years, visits have shifted to a shorter timeframe (i.e., late summer/early fall: see 2022/23 Encounters). The most recent J pod birth was J59 in February 2022 (see 2022 Encounter #13). 

j pod orcas colour map with legend self striping yarn

​K Pod​

From the Center for Whale Research:

K pod is the Southern Resident killer whale pod with the fewest members. The most recent calf born into K pod is K45 (female), born in April 2022 to K20.​ K pod’s oldest member, a female, K12, is estimated to have been born in 1972. 

Note that there are not many individuals in K pod so I've repeated the pattern and each whale appears twice (see the colour map above). 

K pod orcas colour map with legend self striping yarn

L Pod

From the Center for Whale research: 

L pod is the largest of the three Southern Resident pods. L25, estimated to have been born in 1928, is the oldest member of L pod and the oldest whale in the Southern Resident community. The pod’s newest calves, L126 (male) and L127 (female) were born into the population in 2023. CWR researchers obtained photos and drone footage confirming that L127 is female (UAV Encounter #6) and L126 is male (OS Encounter #34). Learn about distinguishing a female orca from a male.

This is unfortunately is already out of date. I added L126 and L127, the two new babies born in 2023. But I missed the news that L47 died, so she is still included. Here she is "swimming" above her children (L83, L91, and L115) and her grandchildren (L110 and L122). 

L pod orcas colour map with legend self striping yarn