The birds of the Galapagos

Back in the days when the HMS Beagle roamed around the Galapagos Islands the adventurer scientist Charles Darwin collected plenty and varied biological data and examples, among them one in particular became the core part of his Theory of Evolution: birds.

Besides the well known turtles that gave name to the archipelago, Darwin’s finches are perhaps one of the best-known bird specimens he took back to England. It was there that he could request the help of a celebrated ornithologist, John Gould, who was surprised by the differences in the beaks of 12 brand-new species, unique to the Galapagos Islands along with two very similar from the mainland.

Darwin noted many unique features on the Galapagos‘s wild life, specially on birds. Evolution was clear when that particular shift on a beak or a wing happened to better adapt the species to the one and only conditions of this new volcanic environment.

Camarhynchus psittacula
Camarhynchus parvulus

 

This sight back in time is an invitation to venture into the archipelago, where you can spot migratory and resident birds year round. 179 species of birds have been registered in the islands, and 45 of them are endemic.

Here is a short list we have picked up to show how the Galapagos Islands are indeed a site for learning and to get a privileged up close view of nature at its best.

Galapagos penguin

Endemic bird that inhabits the Fernandina and Isabela islands. It is the only penguin that lives in the tropical zone and breeds in the northern hemisphere. In addition, it is the third smallest species of penguin in the world. Penguins generally lay two eggs that are incubated by both parents for 40 days. Birds swim up to 50 kilometers per day and feed on small fish and crustaceans. The Phenomenon of “El niño”generates stress on the species for the lack of food, promoting its reproduction.

Non-flying cormorant

Small colonies of 20 to 30 individuals inhabit the Fernandina and Isabela Islands. The bird lost its flight capacity after millions of years of evolution. It is a unique species in the world that surprises with its stunning turquoise eyes, short wings, and webbed legs, which allow it to dive into the ocean to get food. It reproduces between May and October. The nest is made with remains of seaweed fish, hedgehogs and dead starfish. Their eggs are incubated for approximately 35 days.

Albatross

These birds nest on Isla Española, the oldest in the archipelago. They are monogamous and before mating they perform a complex and long dance with synchronized movements. The birds are placed facing each other emitting high pitched sounds, shaking their heads and showing their beaks upwards. Albatrosses are the largest birds in the archipelago. They have a white neck, a yellow beak, black eyebrows and dark brown wings in the upper part. They reproduce between January and March. The male and female incubate a single egg for 60 days.

Galapagos sparrowhawks

They are the only predators of marine iguanas. In the Isabela, Marchena and Pinta islands, the species has a unique mating system, because a single female is related to multiple males. However, this behavior is only observed in a certain group that inhabit the Santiago and Santa Fe islands. The sparrowhawks feed on some species of birds, small mammals and lizards. In reproduction, all males contribute to the feeding of the chicks.

Red-footed Booby

The seabird is native to the Galapagos Islands and is the smallest of its kind. It is easily recognized by the intense red on its webbed feet. It measures between 26 to 30 inches in length and feeds on fish and squid. He lives in Punta Pitt of San Cristobal Island and shares his territory with nazca boobies and blue feet boobies. They have a white or brown plumage and only lay a single egg, every 15 months.

Plan your trip to the «enchanted islands», only 622 miles from continental Ecuador and get the chance to enjoy an up-close look of the finches, Nazca boobies and the scarlet flycatcher; all with characteristics that demonstrate its evolution and adaptation to one of the most beautiful natural places in Ecuador.

 

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