Penguins, Frigates, Boobies and other Galapagos birds
One of the main draws for visitors to the Galapagos Islands is the variety and volume of plant and animal life, many of which are unique and found nowhere else in the world. And though you can expect to see a wealth of different species during your visit, both on land and in the waters surrounding the islands, it is in the skies that some of the most varied and plentiful residents can be found.
A total of around 140 birds species have been registered in the Galapagos. Of those 58 are residential, 76 migratory and six have been introduced, making the archipelago a heaven for bird enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys the wonder of nature. In fact, the majority of the animals that you’ll see during your visit to the islands will probably be Galapagos birds, so getting a good appreciation of the diversity on offer is an important part of understanding life in the archipelago. Although around 50% of the resident species are endemic to the islands, many of the Galapagos birds are currently under threat due to factors associated with human activity.
Of all of the local Galapagos birds the blue-footed boobies, with their brightly colored appendages, are some of the most instantly recognizable. Large populations of the birds can be found on North Seymour Island, San Cristobal, and Española Island.
In general, the Galapagos birds can be divided into three groups; seabirds, coastal birds, and land birds, and apart from the blue-footed boobies, the islands are also home to flightless cormorants, penguins, finches and waved albatross. The sheer number, as well as the almost tame appearance of the birds, is a sight to behold, and a true ‘must see’ for any nature lovers and the keen ornithologist out there.
Listing and habits of the seabirds that inhabit the enchanted isles
The cool, oxygen-rich waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands support an abundant marine flora and fauna which, in turns, support a variety of seabirds. The most obvious and frequently seen seabirds are members of the order Pelecaniformes. In the Galapagos, these include two species of the frigate bird, three species of booby, the brown pelican, the red-billed tropicbird and the flightless cormorant.
No marine region would be complete without seagulls (order Charadriiformes) and the Galapagos are no exception. However, there are only two species of gulls, the swallow-tail gull, and the lava gull, and both are endemic to the archipelago. Another bird belonging to this order that is commonly seen is the brown noddy tern.
The third order of seabirds found in the Galapagos is the Procellariiformes. This order includes the ubiquitous, but difficult to observe, Audubon shearwater and a variety of storm petrels. It also includes the magnificent waved albatross, which, with its 7-8 foot wingspan is the largest bird in the Galapagos.
The final major order of seabird represented in the Galapagos, remarkably, is the Sphenisciphromes, the penguins! The sole penguin found on the equator is the endemic Galapagos penguin.
Listing and habits of the coastal birds that inhabit the Enchanted Islands
The coast of the Galapagos serves as home to a diverse group of shorebirds, waders, waterfowl and lagoon birds. These birds are capable of long-distance flights and are often migratory, they do not feed out at sea. Instead, they find food between the tides, in coastal lagoons, and in ponds near to the highland areas of certain Islands.
Listing and habits of the land birds that inhabit the Enchanted Islands
Few species of land birds inhabit the Galapagos Islands, and Galapagos Yellow Birdthree-quarters of these are endemic or occurring only in the archipelago. Unlike the seabirds, most of which are excellent long-distance fliers, land birds from the tropics have little cause to make long flights. Though relatives of all the Galápagos species may be found on the nearby mainland, only a freak of fate would bring them out a thousand kilometers from land. This must have happened, however, at least fourteen times in the past.
With few exceptions, the land birds are a singularly dull-colored lot. As if to make up for this lack of exciting color, their “tameness” is unsurpassed. With attitudes to humans that seem to range from indifference, through curiosity and fearlessness, to outright impudence, the Galapagos land birds are a pleasure to watch and study.
Because Galapagos visitors spend so much time on and around the water, the sea and shore birds typically Galapagos Islands Bird receive more attention than the land birds. The seabirds tend to be bigger, more obvious, can be observed more easily, and display lots of different types of behaviors. Land birds, on the other hand, are smaller, drabber, and more secretive. It takes more effort, more patience, and more understanding to observe them. Some birds, like the cuckoo and the rail, have small populations and tend to be cryptic in their habits. There are 29 recognized species of land birds living in the Galapagos Islands and Darwin came close to seeing them all. Of course, he didn’t visit all of the islands and didn’t see everything. Darwin succinctly cataloged the resident land birds in the “Voyage of the Beagle”:
“Of land-birds I obtained twenty-six kinds, all peculiar to the group and found nowhere else, with the exception of one lark-like finch from North America (Dolichonyx oryzivorous*), which ranges on that continent as far north as 54 degrees and generally frequents marshes. The other twenty-five birds consist, firstly, of a hawk, curiously intermediate in structure between a Buzzard and the American group of carrion-feeding Polybori; and with this latter, it agrees most closely in every habit and even tone of voice. Secondly, there are two owls, representing the short-eared and barn owls of Europe. Thirdly, a wren, three tyrant-flycatchers (two of them species of Pyrocephalus, one or both of which would be ranked by some ornithologists as only varieties), and a dove — all analogous to but distinct from, American species. fourthly, a swallow, which though differing from the Progene purpurea of both Americas, only in being rather duller colored, smaller, and slenderer, is considered by Mr. Gould as specifically distinct. Fifthly, there are three species of mocking-thrush — a form highly characteristic of America. The remaining land-birds form a most singular group of finches, related to each other in the structure of their beaks, short tails, the form of the body, and plumage. There are thirteen species, which Mr. Gould has divided into four sub-groups. All these species are peculiar to this archipelago.…”
Charles Darwin, 1845
* Endemic sub-species