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Galapagos Islands Birds

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Birdwatchers come from all over the world to visit the Galapagos Islands, where there are hundreds of bird species to be seen. Many of them are endemic, so the Galapagos is the only place in the world to see them!

Many theories exist regarding the unique nature of the flora and fauna on the Galapagos islands. A popularly held belief is that the original species that evolved into the unique Galapagos variety found their way to the islands on flotation rafts of vegetation and other waste and were carried to the island via wind and sea currents.

Bird life in the Galapagos is much more abundant and varied simply for the fact that it was much easier for birds to reach the islands than reptiles or mammals. Birds could fly to and from Galapagos relatively easily. 

Even smaller species such as finches could be carried out to Galapagos by strong storms. Today, it's generally these smaller Galapagos species that have adapted enough to become endemic.

Like most animals, birds lead seasonal lives. They mate, nest and migrate at certain times of the year. So if you are a bird lover this is a guide for you to make sure you can see your favorite Galapagos bird species on your trip! 

LAND BIRDS
 
 Finches Galapagos Birds  
  • Galapagos Finches: There are 13 different species of finches found on the different islands in the archipelago, and naturalists believe they all descended from a common ancestor that somehow found its way to the islands ages ago. Some look so similar that it takes a trained eye to tell them apart while others look so different it is difficult to believe they are the same species.
  • Where? Most islands in the archipelago.
  • When? All year round.
  • Interesting fact: Long ago a single finch species made its way to the Galapagos. Today, there are thirteen different species spread out over the islands.
 Mockingbird Galapagos Birds
  • Mockingbirds: Although his name will forever be associated with the finches, initially Darwin was much more interested in the mockingbirds that he found on the islands. These clever birds are larger than the finches and have a salt-and-pepper coloration.
  • Where? Can be found on most islands in the archipelago, at the shoreline.
  • When? All year round.
  • Interesting fact: The Floreana Mockingbird have been extinct on the island for decades. Now they only survive on two islets (Champion and Gardner) off the coast of Floreana..
 shortowl galapagos birds
  • Short Eared-owl: The short-eared owl doesn't actually have "ears" like mammals do, but rather tufts of feathers that resemble ears and gave them their name. Unlike most owls, they hunt during the day, usually in the morning and evening. They feed on small mammals like rats and mice as well as small birds and reptiles.
  • Where? They are wide-spread throughout the Archipelago. They are most frequently seen hunting in Genovesa.
  • When? All year round.
  • Interesting fact: They are most active at night and early in the morning and can be seen in the day time on islands where the Galapagos hawk is absent.
 hawk galapagos birds
  • Galapagos Hawk: Until the arrival of humans, the Galapagos hawk enjoyed the status of top predator on the islands: they had no natural predators until humans introduced cats, dogs and other animals. This endemic hawk feeds on rats, mice, reptiles and smaller birds. They are tough, swift and strong, and capable of taking out a medium-sized iguana if they are hungry enough.
  • Where? On most islands in the archipelago, except Baltra, Daphne, Floreana, San Cristobal, and Seymour.
  • When? All year round.
  • Interesting fact: They usually hunt in groups of 2 or 3, soaring at heights of 50 to 200 meters in the sky.
 dove galapagos birds
  • Galapagos Dove: This attractive bird can often be seen scurrying along the ground in brushy, rocky areas. They have reddish-brown plumage and striking blue circles around their eyes. They eat seeds and insects and tend to be very shy, although if you move slowly enough you can usually get a good look. They tend to prefer dry areas to wet highlands.
  • Where? Arid lowlands of the archipelago.
  • When? All year round.
  • Interesting fact: The long downward curved beaks on the Galapagos Dove helps it feed mostly on seeds and fruits from the ground.
 ani galapagos birds
  • Smooth-billed Ani: Not native to the Galapagos, the smooth-billed ani arrived within the last 50 years. It's a largish, black bird: if you get a quick look at one, you may mistake it for a crow. Like other introduced species, there is an effort underway to eradicate it. It eats insects and small reptiles.
  • Where? Isabela, Santiago and Santa Cruz Islands.
  • When? All year round.
  • Interesting fact: The Smooth-billed Ani was introduced to the Galapagos archipelago in the 1960s, since when its population has grown significantly.
   
SEA BIRDS
 
 bluefooted galapagos
  • Blue-footed Booby: Common and cute, Blue-footed Boobies are the favorite birds of many Galapagos travelers. They prefer to nest in any open spot, which often includes the middle of the trail: many Galapagos visitors have had to walk around Boobies who impudently set up their home right on the path!
  • Where? On most islands in the archipelago, at the shoreline.
  • When? All year round.
  • Interesting fact: During mating rituals, male birds show off their feet to prospective mates with a high-stepping strut. The bluer the feet, the more attractive the mate.
 nazca galapagos birds
  • Nazca Booby:
  • Where? Best nesting colonies in Genovesa, Española and Floreana.
  • When? All year round.
  • Interesting fact: The largest of the three species of Galapagos boobies.
cormorant galapagos birds
  • Flighless Cormorant:
  • Where? East coast of Fernandina, as well as on the northern and western coasts of Isabela.
  • When? All year round. Nesting tends to take place from July to October.
  • Interesting fact: The only cormorant in the world that has lost the ability to fly. With only 1500 estimated individuals, it is one of the world's rarest birds and is the subject of an active conservation program.
redfooted galapagos birds
  • Red-footed Booby:
  • Where? Colonies can be found on Genovesa, Darwin, Wolf, Floreana and Punta Pitt on San Cristobal.
  • When? All year round.
  • Interesting fact: Red-footed boobies are strong flyers and can travel up to 93 miles in search of food.
flamingo galapagos birds
  • Greater Flamingo: Flamingos are not endemic to Galapagos, but these beautiful pink birds are still a favorite. Flamingos eat certain tiny crustaceans that live in brackish salty water. There are only a handful of places in Galapagos that meet the requirements for their very specific food, so there are never more than a few hundred flamingos in Galapagos at any time.
  • Where? Floreana Island, Isabela Island, Santiago, Rabida Island and Santa Cruz.
  • When? All year round.
  • Interesting fact: The Greater Flamingo lives around the brackish waters of some lagoons of Galapagos.
frigate galapagos birds
  • Frigatebird
  • Where? Nesting areas on North Seymour, Floreana, Isabela, Genovesa and San Cristobal.
  • When? All year round.
  • Interesting fact: Great Frigate birds steal food in mid-air from other frigates, as well as other species, like red-footed boobies and tropic birds.
penguins galapagos
  • Galapagos Penguins: The Galapagos Penguin is truly a remarkable bird. Designed for frigid arctic conditions, it somehow adapted enough to be able to live at the Equator! In fact, it's the only penguin to naturally be found north of the Equator. Very fortunate snorkelers will get to see them swimming: they're amazingly quick as they dart around, nipping up small fish!
  • Where? Mainly on Fernandina Island and the west coast of Isabela Island.
  • When? All year round. Most nests are seen between May and January.
  • Interesting fact: Endemic to the Galapagos, it is the only penguin that lives north of the equator in the wild.
albatross galapagos birds
  • Waved Albatross: They're handsome birds: their coloring is a blending of brown, yellow and white with a bright yellow bill. These large birds can fly for days out at sea, scouring the oceans for food such as squid and fish. Although they fly very gracefully, they're awkward on land, only managing a sort of weak waddle when walking.
  • Where? The Waved Albatross breeds primarily on Española Island in the Galapagos archipelago.
  • When? All year round. The eggs are laid between April and June.
  • Interesting fact: Derives its name from the wave-like pattern of its feathers on the adult birds.


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