Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus

The most familiar of the dolphins and the most likely to be seen from British shores, the bottlenose dolphin is found all round the world. Closer to home, the best places to see these dolphins are the Moray Firth in Scotland, Cardigan Bay in Wales and the coasts of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. Bottlenose dolphins are large, fairly plain grey dolphins, darker grey above and paler below. They have a short beak short and a large triangular dorsal fin that curves backwards.



Bottlenose dolphins are social animals, usually found in small groups of up to 15. They are very acrobatic, often jumping out of the water or even doing somersaults. The bottlenose dolphin feeds on fish such as salmon, flatfish, herring, mackerel and cod.


  • Length: up to 4m
  • Weight: 500kg
  • Average Lifespan: 45-50 years


Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, listed under CITES Appendix II and classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Also protected under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995


Found all around the UK. The only population of bottlenose dolphins that is resident in the UK all year round lives in the Moray Firth.

When to see

January – December


  • Bottlenose dolphins are thought to be one of the most intelligent animals. They are easily taught to perform tricks and are often seen in aquaria.
  • These dolphins are also known to help those needing aid – often rescuing people from drowning or shark attack.
  • Bottlenose dolphins often catch their prey by striking the fish with their tails to stun them

Common name

Bottlenose dolphin

Species name

Tursiops truncatus

IUCN Red List status

Least concern

When to see in Scotland

January – December

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Spey Bay or the Isle of Eigg.

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