In this section:

Facts about common dolphin

Common dolphin leaping out of the water, Cook Strait Area. Photo: Nadine Gibbs.
Common dolphin leaping out of the
water, Cook Strait

The common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) is found in offshore warm-temperate waters in the Atlantic and Pacific and is the most numerous dolphin within this range.  It is closely related to the long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis) which prefers shallower and warmer water. Short-beaked common dolphins are found in waters throughout New Zealand and Australia. In New Zealand, this species tends to remain a few kilometres from the coast and is particularly common in the Hauraki Gulf and off Northland.


Common dolphins may form enormous schools of several thousand individuals. They are also known to associate with schools of pilot whales and other dolphin species such as dusky dolphins. This species is abundant but precise population estimates are largely unknown.

Diet and foraging

Common dolphins feed on a variety of prey, including surface schooling fish species and small mid-water fish and squids. They are known to dive to depths of 280 metres in search of prey and hunt cooperatively within schools. Dives can last up to 8 minutes but are usually between 10 seconds and 2 minutes. These animals are vocal and show a wide range of acrobatic behaviour.

Life history

Gestation lasts for around 10-11 months and the calving interval varies from 1 to 3 years. Age at sexual maturity is estimated to vary with region but for the Pacific is thought to range from 7-12 years for males and 6-7 years for females. Maximum age is estimated to be 22 years.


Find out more

Learn more


DOC 24 hour emergency hotline:
0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468)

Phone to report:

Seals severely injured, entangled, or being harassed by people or dogs
Whale or dolphin strandings
Sick or injured wildlife

For other enquiries, contact your nearest DOC office