Main Page     All Journeys    Travel Tips



11/2-13/5 2010

 Map    Diary   Islands
  Plants  Reptiles

The Birds of Galapagos.

 Due to the isolation, especially many of the land birds are endemic. A total of 140 species of birds have been registered in Galapagos, half of them endemic. Among the land birds, Darwin's finches are probably the most famous. On the shores, the boobies wherever they have red or blue feet, are icons. Here are also lagoon birds such as penguins, ducks, stilts, herons, warblers, pelicans and frigates. See the pictures I tool of birds here.

 Many of the land birds are endemic like the  Large-billed (Galapagos) Flycatcher; Myiarchus magnirostris, Yellow Warbler; Dendroica petechia aureola, Galapagos Mockingbird; Nesomimus parvulus, Chatham mockingbird; Nesomimus melanotis and Charles Mockingbird; Nesomimus trifasciatus and of cause the the Darwin's finches. Some are subspecies like Vermilion Flycatcher; Pyrocephalus rubinus nanus.
 The more interesting endemic birds are:

 Galapagos Dove; Zenaida galapagoensis which have two subspecies recognised. The subspecies Z. g.exsul is known from Culpepper and Wenman, while the nominate Z. g.  galapagoensis occurs on all the other major islands. It is rare on some islands but common on others, appearing to be fairly secure away from settled areas and on islands free of predators. inhabits dry rocky lowlands with scattered trees, bushes and Opuntia cacti. It feeds mainly on seeds, but during the wet season it also feeds on caterpillars and cacti blossoms.

 Galapagos Hawk; Buteo galapagoensis is about 55 cm from beak to tail with a wingspan of 120 centimetres. Females are noticeably larger than males as in many species of birds of prey. This hawk lives mainly on insects such as locusts and giant centipedes, as well as small lava lizards, snakes and rodents. It is not uncommon for it to take young marine and land iguanas, and sea turtle and tortoise hatchlings. Nests are built low in trees, on lava ledges, or even on the ground at times. Used for many years and nesting periods, they become quite large, sometimes even four feet in diameter.
 Due to hunting by humans they are extinct or rare on San Cristobal, Floreana and Santa Cruz.

 Hood Mockingbird; Nesomimus macdonaldi is only found on Espanola. The Hood mockingbird is an omnivore, which means it eats animals as well as vegetation. The bird uses its long, curved beak to crack open seabird eggs in order to eat their contents. It will also drink blood from the wounds of other living or dead animals, and scavenge carrion (decaying animal carcasses). During non-breeding season, Hood mockingbirds travel in large groups of around forty to forage and defend their territories. In the months of March and April when nesting time occurs, they split off into smaller groups. it is found on Espanola.
 The other tree species are: Chatham Mockingbird; Nesomimus melanotis from San Cristobal and Charles Mockingbird; Nesomimus trifasciatus from Champion and Gardner (extinct on Floreana).

 Galapagos Martin; Progne modesta is a member of the Hirundinidae family. Its habitats are subtropical or tropical dry shrub and, subtropical or tropical seasonally wet or flooded lowland grassland, pastureland and heavily degraded former forest. This is the only resident swallow family bird and can be seen performing acrobatic flies out of cliffs or in the interior of the calderas of the big volcanoes of Isabela.

 Galapagos Rail, Laterallus spilonotus  is a small (15 cm) nearly flightless ground living bird. It are generally found on islands with higher elevations, particularly on the islands of Santiago, Santa Cruz and Sierra Negra, and the rails are commonest higher up. They feed in invertebrates, mostly snails, isopods, dragonflies, bugs, ants, also taking berries and some seeds. They feed during the day, moving along the ground tossing leaves and investigating the leaf litter.

 There are two subspecies of owls, which are smaller and darker then their relatives; the Galapagos Barn Owl; Tyto punctissima lives on Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristóbal and Fernandina, most of the smaller islands, but it is now extinct on Floreana because of introduced mammals such as cats. It has the distinctive heart-shaped face of the common barn owl, though is smaller and darker. Like its cousin, it is almost entirely nocturnal, and rarely seen. Its diet consists primarily of small rodents, lizards, birds and bats, and its habitat is in lava tubes, holes in trees and abandoned buildings.

Darwin's Finches:

Ground Finches.

The main species.

Medium Ground-Finch;
 Geospiza fortis.
All over the place.

Large Ground-Finch;
 Geospiza magnirostris.
Larger islands, except Fernandina, San Cristobal and Espanola.

Small Ground-Finch;
 Geospiza fuliginosa
All over the place

Woodpecker Finch;
Cactospiza pallida
Larger islands, except Floreana, Marchena and Espanola.

Sharp-Beaked Ground Finch;
Geospiza difficilis
Heights of Santiago and Fernandina.

Cactus (Ground) Finch;
Geospiza scandens
All over, except Espanola and Wolf.

Large Cactus (Ground)Finch;
 Geospiza conirostris
Where G. scandens isn't.

The Tree Finches:


Vegetarian Tree Finch;
 Platyspiza crassirostris
All over the place.

Small Tree-Finch;
 Camarhynchus parvulus
All over the place.

Medium Tree Finch;
 Camarhynchus pauper
Humid part of Floreana.

Large tree finch;
Camarhynchus psittacula
All over the place in humid parts.

Warbler Finch;
 Certhidea olivacea

Mangrove finch;
 Cactospiza heliobates
Mangroves of Isabela.

All the finches pictures above are nicked - just to be sure of the ID.

 The other owl is the Short-eared Owl; Asio flammeus galapagoensis which can be seen on Genovesa where it hunts on foot among the colonies of storm petrels. It will wait at the entrance to a storm petrels burrow and will lunge with its claws when it hears a bird within reach. As its name implies, its ears are small and hard to see. It is found on most other islands, except Fernandina and Wolf.

 Galapagos Flycatcher; Myiarchus magnirostris also known as the Large-billed Flycatcher is a species of bird in the Tyrannidae family. It is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and subtropical or tropical dry shrub land.

 There are several non-endemic species like the Paint-billed Crake; Neocrex erythrops, Common Gallinule; Gallinula chloropus and Dark-billed Cuckoo; Coccyzus melacoryphus.

 The birds I should look after on San Cristobal are the Galapagos Barn Owl; Tyto punctissima, Short-eared Owl; Asio flammeus, Common Gallinule; Gallinula chloropus, Dark-billed Cuckoo; Coccyzus melacoryphus, Vermilion Flycatcher; Pyrocephalus rubinus nanus, Large-billed (Galapagos) Flycatcher; Myiarchus magnirostris, Galapagos Martin; Progne modesta, Chatham mockingbird; Nesomimus melanotis, Yellow Warbler; Dendroica petechia aureola, Medium Ground-Finch; Geospiza fortis, Small Ground-Finch; Geospiza fuliginosa, Cactus finch; Geospiza scandens, Small Tree-Finch; Camarhynchus parvulus, Woodpecker Finch; Cactospiza pallida, Warbler Finch; Certhidea olivacea and the Vegetarian Tree FinchPlatyspiza crassirostris.
 Maybe the Galapagos Hawk; Buteo galapagoensis, Galapagos Dove; Zenaida galapagoensis, Large Ground-Finch; Geospiza magnirostris, Sharp-Beaked Ground Finch; Geospiza difficilis and the Large tree finch; Camarhynchus psittacula.

 The sea birds including the mangrove and lagoon species. Again, we find many endemic species of which many are highly endangered. Among them are the Galapagos (Lava) Heron; Butorides sundevalli, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron; Nyctanassa violacea galapagensis, Brown Pelican; Pelecanus occidentalis urinator Endemic subspecies, White-vented (Elliot's) Storm-Petrel; Oceanites gracilis galapagoensis Endemic subspecies and Wedge-rumped (Galapagos) Storm-Petrel; Oceanodroma tethys tethys and the Galapagos Oystercatcher; Haematopus palliatus galapagensis. Some of those I find more interesting are:

 Galapagos Penguin; Spheniscus mendiculus, is found on Fernandina, Isabela and Bartolome islands, This is the only penguin that is found north of the equator and is able to survive here because of cold currents of water that flow around Fernandina and Isabela islands; the Humboldt current. The Galapagos penguin is flightless, like the rest of the penguin species, and is only 35 centimetres tall, which makes it one of the smallest penguins in the world.

 Lava Gull; Larus fuliginosus is only poorly known, and it is considered vulnerable because it has a very small population. Numbers are assumed to be stable, although there are a number of potential threats, which may be having an impact. breeds only in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. It is widespread throughout the archipelago, with possibly the most dense populations found at Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz), Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristóbal) and Puerto Villamil (Isabela).

 Swallow-Tailed Gulls; Creagrus furcatus are amongst the unusual list of Galapagos birds; an endemic sea bird. Endemism in sea birds is low due to their high dispersal ability, but given the right isolating conditions, the resulting adaptations are quite interesting. In Galapagos, we have two resident gull species, and both are endemic species (swallow-tail gull and lava gull).
 The swallow-tail gull is the world's only night-feeding gull. It pursuits live animals at open sea like squid and nocturnal fish. It is not a gregarious hunter, and nests along the coastline or in some cases in cliffs of Genovesa, South Plaza. It feeds between 16-32 kilometres from the coastline.

 Flightless Cormorant; Phalacrocorax harrisi are a flightless Galapagos bird, that lives in the westernmost Islands, Fernandina and Isabela, where there is plenty of food and nesting habitat for this unusual seabird. In islands with plenty of food and safety, the cormorants had no practical use for their wings and, simply, by means of natural selection, became flightless.

 Non Endemic species: Here are also species known from other coasts like the Great Blue Heron; Ardea herodias, Striated Heron; Butorides striatus but the most significant are:

 Waved Albatross; Phoebastria irrorata is found around the East Pacific. It have a wingspan of three and a half meter. Strangely enough they are only found in Galapagos on Espanola, where they depart their lovely grounds by early January and return by early April - just when I'm there...

 Red-Footed Boobies; Sula sula websteri. These Galapagos birds are the only ones with prehensile feet. They nest on Palo Santo trees or bushes. A precocious group, red-footed boobies start mating when they still have their juvenile plumage (which may explain the healthy size of the colony).

 Blue-Footed Boobies; Sula nebouxii. These birds are fearless divers; from 30 meters or more, and picturesque dancers with their beaks pointing up to the sky, while stomping the ground with their huge bright blue webbed feet. Favourite nesting Galapagos Islands are: Española, the Daphnes, Isabela and North Seymour Island.

Nazca Boobies; Sula granti are the largest of the three boobies. Big nesting colonies are found in Genovesa and Espanola Islands in Galapagos.

 Frigate Birds, also called Man O'War, are the kind of Galapagos birds that belong to the sea though they are virtually not waterproof! What a contradiction! They are large; almost 1.8 meter wingspan, lightweight and have a long, hooked beak to catch fish without getting wet.

Frigates have an easier way to get food: stealing from other Galapagos birds, specially red-footed boobies, and when it is time to raise a family, they settle in others' nests, or abscond with some sticks. Male frigates have shiny green or purple plumage (depending on the species) and a resplendent scarlet pouch, which is displayed in courtship. There are two species of frigates in Galapagos:

The Magnificent Frigate Bird; Fregata magnificens ridgwayi and the Great Frigate Bird; Fregata minor. Their main nesting colonies are found in Genovesa and North Seymour Islands, but they are found where ever other seabirds can be seen. One can get real close to them form time to time on San Cristobal, where the wash off the salt in the fresh water crater lake of El Junco.

 There are around 500 Galapagos (Caribbean, American) Flamingos; Phoenicopterus ruber. The Galapagos Flamingo measures 120 – 140 centimetres in length. Most of their plumage is pink, the wing coverts are red and the primary and secondary flight feathers are black. A flamingos beak is pink with a restricted black tip and the legs are entirely pink.

 Flamingos filter-feed on brine shrimp. Their oddly-shaped beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they consume and are uniquely used upside-down. The filtering of food items is assisted by hairy structures called lamellae which line the mandibles and the large rough-surfaced tongue. Flamingos also feed on small crustaceans Flamingos usually lay just one large egg and both male and female take turns incubating the egg by sitting on the nest. Incubation time is between 21 - 36 days.

 White-cheeked Pintail Duck; Anas bahamensis galapagensis is an endemic subspecies from the is a dabbling ducks. Like many southern ducks, the sexes are similar. It is mainly brown with white cheeks and a red-based grey bill (young birds lack the pink). It cannot be confused with any other duck in its range.This species occurs on waters with a degree of salinity, such as brackish lakes, estuaries and mangrove swamps. The White-cheeked Pintail feeds on aquatic plants and small creatures obtained by dabbling. The nest is on the ground under vegetation and near water

 Galapagos Shearwater; Puffinus lherminieri subalaris is adaptable as regards its preferred marine habitat; it can be found in pelagic, offshore and inshore waters. It feeds in a variety of methods, mainly diving out of flight, plunging underwater from a swimming position, and picking up food less than a bill's length underwater while "pattering" as if it were walking across the waves. It eats small fish, squid and planktonic crustaceans. Unlike other shearwaters, it is not commonly a ship-follower.The species is colonial, nesting in small burrows and crevices in rocks and on earthy slopes on atolls and rocky islets.

 Brown Noddy; Anous stolidus galapagensis is a seabird from the tern family. The largest of the noddies, it can be told from the closely related Black Noddy by its larger size and plumage, which is dark brown rather than black. The Brown Noddy is colonial, usually nesting on the in elevated situations on cliffs or in short trees or shrubs. It only occasionally nests on the ground. A single egg is laid by the female of a pair each breeding season.

 Galápagos  Petrel or Dark-rumped Petrel; Pterodroma phaeopygia The Galapagos Petrel is an endemic marine bird that nests in areas of high humidity in the highlands (generally above 200 m elevation) of five islands: San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz, Santiago, Floreana, and Isabela. In the past, the petrel population was severely affected by introduced mammals. These introduced animals depredated and altered the nesting colonies, placing the petrel in the category of Critically Endangered species listed in the Red Book of Threatened Birds. One of the greatest threats to the population of petrels is the presence of the Black Rat (Rattus rattus), an introduced species that is the principal cause of mortality of eggs and hatchlings of the species. Introduced plants have also altered and restricted the nesting habitat. The reproductive period of the petrels covers about eight months of the year. A study carried out in 2002 showed an egg-laying period between March to the end of October, with a peak occurring during the first two weeks of August.

                                                      DIARY       PHOTOS       PLANTS      REPTILES    ISLANDS