felixcat :: Birds of Galapagos
Last changed: Mar 22, 2009
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Back to Galápagos Islands

Back to Galápagos Islands

Widlife on Galapagos Islands

Other Wildlife on Galápagos

Snapshots on Galapagos Islands

Snapshots on Galápagos

Back to Ecuador 2008 Back to Ecuador 2008

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Bird-watching in the Galápagos represents Quality not Quantity particularly compared with extremely diversified bird life on the mainland Ecuador.  The bird life in the Galápagos is very unique with half of the resident population of birds is endemic to the archipelago; meaning that they cannot be found elsewhere in the world.  The endemism rate for land birds is much higher than sea birds (76% vs. 25%) as sea birds are most migrants while land birds are relatively sedentary.

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Sea Birds; Shore and Lagoon Birds

Galápagos Penguin

Brown Pelican

Red-billed Tropicbird

Magnificent Frigatebird

Great Frigatebird

Nazca Booby

Blue-footed Booby

Red-footed Booby

Waved Albatross

Galápagos Shearwater

Common Noddy

Lava Gull

Swallow-tailed Gull

Galápagos Pintail

Lava Heron

Great Blue Heron Yellow-crowned Night Heron American Oystercatcher Greater Flamingo Black-necked Stilt
Semi-palmated Plover Ruddy Turnstone Wandering Tattler Endemic Species Endemic subspecies

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Land Birds; Darwin Finches
Galápagos  Dove Smooth-billed Ani Short-eared Owl Galápagos Hawk Barn Swallow
Large-billed Flycatcher Yellow Warbler

Galápagos Mockingbird

Hood Mockingbird Darwin Finches
Small Ground-Finch Medium Ground Finch Large Ground Finch Cactus Ground Finch Large Cactus Ground Finch
Sharp-beaked Ground Finch Small Tree Finch Medium Tree Finch Large Tree Finch Non-endemic

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Baltra and Rábida

Santa Cruz

Santa Fé

Bartolomé

Floreana

Birds on South Plaza

South Plaza

Genovesa

Española

Birds on North Seymour

North Seymour

Galápagos Penguin (Bartolomé)

Most penguins are restricted to the southern continents and sub-Antarctic waters while Galápagos Penguins are world's only tropical ones.  The Galápagos Penguins lives permanently in the tropics and is the only species to do so.

Hotspots

Bartolomé

Isabela

Fernandina

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Brown Pelican (Santa Cruz)

Brown pelicans are the only pelicans that regularly feed by plung-diving.  They plunge head first with mouth open and wings folded.

Hotspots

Santa Cruz

Isabela

Rábida

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Red-billed Tropicbird (Genovesa)

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Hotspots

Genovesa

South Plaza

Española

The red-billed tropicbird, among three species of tropicbirds, only appears in Galápagos.  Its long tail streamers account for half of its body length and trails behind it in flight.

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There are two very similar species of frigatebirds in Galápagos. The male has a purple sheen on its black plumage and the female has a black triangle on the white patch of the throat.  The eye-ring is bluish green on both sexes.  Unlike the great frigate, the magnificent frigate is an inshore feeder and feed near islands.  It is easily seen in North Seymour.

Hotspots

North Seymour

Isabela

San Cristóbal

Genovesa

Magnificent Frigatebird (North Seymor)

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Great frigates are found throughout the archipelago and are offshore feeder. The great is very similar to the magnificent but the eye wing is red on  the female while the male's bluish green.

Hotspots

North Seymour

Genovesa

Cristóbal

Great Frigatebird (Genovesa)

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Nazca Booby (Genovesa)

Nazca booby is the heaviest of the three boobies and is also known as masked booby.  It nests directly on the ground and surrounds its nest with waste as the blue-footed booby.

Hotspots

Española

Genovesa

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Blue-footed Booby (Floreana)

The blue-footed booby is the most common booby (but least abundant) and the Galápagos subspecies is endemic.   During the mating season, the booby dances with its blue feet, spreads out its wings, brings its tail up, point its bill to the sky and whistles loudly.

Hotspots

Española

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Red-footed Booby (Genovesa)

Hotspots

Genovesa - World largest red-footed booby colony

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The red-footed booby is the lightest booby.  There is also a white variety called "morpho blanco" but the brown phase outnumbers white phase by about twenty to one.  The red foot are adapted to gripping branches and thus it is the only booby to nest in trees.

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Red-footed boobies are the largest community of boobies in the Galápagos.

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Waved Albatross (Española)

Hotspots

Española and at sea throughout Galápagos water

Waved albatross is not only endemic to the Galápagos but also endemic to the island of Española, where is the only place in the world it reproduces.  Because of abundant food supply, the waved albatross breeds in the tropics while other 12 species of albatrosses in the world live in the southern oceans and rarely cross the equator.   It can be only found in the Galápagos during the dry season (arriving in April and leaving in December).

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Galápagos Shearwater (South Plaza)

Hotspot

South Plaza

One of the larger seabirds is Galápagos Shearwater, which is formerly known as the Audubon's Shearwater.  Galápagos subspecies is endemic.  It is a fast-flying species that breeds in cavities in sea cliffs.

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Common Noddy

(Santa Cruz)

Hotspots

Santa Cruz

Isabela

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The common or brown noddy is the most frequently seen tern and the only noddy recorded in the Galápagos.  They are often seen in flocks or feeding among other seabirds and may even perch on a pelican's head as it surfaces from a dive, waiting to snatch up morsels.

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Lava Gull

(Santa Cruz)

Hotspots

Santa Cruz

South Plaza

Genovesa

Lava gull is the rarest gull in the world and it was once estimated at 400 pairs all in the Galápagos.  It blends beautifully with the lava on which it often loafs.  Unlike the flocks of scavenging gulls in some parts of the world, it is rare to see more than two lava gulls together.

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Swallow-tailed Gull

(Genovesa)

Hotspots

South Plaza

North Seymour

Genovesa

The striking swallow-tailed gull is endemic to Galápagos apart from a small colony in Colombia.  It feeds mainly at night and is the most nocturnal of the world's 51 gull species.  Its nocturnal vision is made possible by the red eyewing which serves as a sort of sonar.   This night feeding habit has developed in response to competition from other seabirds during daytime, in particular the tropicbird, which feeds on the same food during the day.

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Galápagos Pintail

(Santa Cruz)

Hotspot

South Plaza

Genovesa

San Cristóbal

In lack of freshwater lagoons, ducks are not common in Galápagos and only the Galápagos pintail breeds here.  It is a subspecies of the wide-spread white cheeked or Bahamas pintail.  It has adapted well to the challenge of living in the Galápagos and feeds both in coastal lagoons and freshwater highland pools.  It moves among temporary pools after rains and breeds whenever condition permits.

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Lava Heron (South Plaza)

Hotspots

Genovesa

Santa Cruz

Española

A small, endemic heron is common at the shoreline of every island.  It is regarded as a subspecies of the widespread striated heron but they look completely different and two species coexist on many islands without interbreeding.

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Great Blue Heron (Rábida)

Hotspot

Santa Cruz

The great blue heron is different enough from members of the same species on the mainland to be classified as distinct Galápagos subspecies indicating it has been present in the islands for a long time.

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Genovesa)

Hotspots

Genovesa

Santa Cruz

The yellow-crowned night heron is a nocturnal hunter that shelters under lava overhangs during the day, emerging at dusk to feed on invertebrates.  It is abundant in Genovesa and can be seen during daytime.  Like the great blue heron, the yellow-crowned night heron is classified as distinct Galápagos subspecies.

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American Oystercatcher (Genovesa)

Hotspots

Santiago

Bartolomé

Española

American oystercatchers are widely distributed around the Caribbean and South America coasts, but the Galápagos population shows several differences from those in the mainland and could be a separate species.  They are usually seen in pairs foraging among rocks.

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Greater Flamingo (Rábida)

Hotspots

Rábida

Floreana

Isabela

Galápagos flamingos are a subspecies of the greater flamingo.  They are spread in small groups among the comparatively few available coastal lagoons and move around the islands and predicting their occurrence is never easy although there usually some at a few reliable sites.

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Black-necked Stilt (Rábida)

The black-necked stilt is another bird of brackish lagoons and shares with flamingos and Galápagos pintails.

Hotspots

Rábida

Santa Cruz

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Semi-palmated Plover (Rábida)

Hotspots

Rábida

Floreana

A small bird of the littoral walking quickly on the beach along the waterline or on rock.

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Ruddy Turnstone

(Genovesa)

Hotspot

Genovesa

Fernandina

Seymour

As its name tells, the ruddy turnstone turns over shells and rocks when in search of food.

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Wandering Tattler

(Española)

Hotspot

Española

A slate-grey bird with white eyebrows, a long thin black bill and long yellow legs.

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Galápagos Dove(Genovesa)

Hotspots

Española

Genovesa

Santa Fé

The only archipelago's native dove with a conspicuous turquoise-blue ring the eye.  Endemic to and very tame to man, thus once largely killed by the pirate as food.

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Smooth-billed Ani (Santa Cruz)

Hotspots

Santa Cruz

Smooth-billed anis are gregarious birds and often seen in rank grasslands.  It was probably introduced by settlers to protect cattle from ticks.

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Short-eared Owl

(South Plaza)

Hotspots

Santa Cruz

Genovesa

The same widespread species found in Europe and North America, Short-eared owls are the most common owl and regarded as a separate subspecies, which hunt by day on islands where the Galápagos hawk is absent, unlike typical owls being nocturnal hunters.

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Galápagos Hawk

(Española)

Hotspot

Española

Santa Fé

Fernandina

The Galápagos hawk, suspected to evolve from ancestral hawks migrating between the Americas, is a distinct and sedentary species.  Surprisingly there is only one species became established as a resident.  It was once famously tame and have been known to perch on hats though it still has no fear of men whatsoever provided not approaching too close.

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Barn Swallow (Española)

Hotspots

Española

Barn swallows are uncommon migrants that typically occur during the northern winter.

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Large-billed Flycatcher (Floreana)

Hotspots

Floreana

The large-billed flycatcher is endemic to the Galápagos  and is most commonly in the lowland or may be in the transition and arid zones.  Inquisitive by nature, it surprisingly has the habit of collecting human hair for nest construction.

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Yellow Warbler

(Bartolomé)

Hotspots

Every islands except Daphne

This small, insect-eating bird is entirely yellow while the male has a reddish brown patch on the top of the head.  Yellow warblers are common to all habitats and are the land birds most ubiquitous in the Galápagos.

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Galápagos Mockingbird

(Genovesa)

Hotspots

Every islands except Pinzón

Four species (and six subspecies) of mockingbirds in the Galápagos are all endemic, of which the Galápagos mockingbird is the most widespread.  Gangs forage over a wide area, generally running along the ground rather flying.

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Hood Mockingbird (Española)

Other three species of mockingbirds are very similar in appearance.  They are  different in eye colour, size and bodily proportions.  They can be readily identified as they do not overlap in distribution.  Being the largest and boldest, the Hood Mocking-bird is endemic to Española, where is easily seen.

Hotspot

Española

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Darwin Finches are the dark-coloured birds about the size of a sparrow and distributed on all the islands.  13 species are endemic to the archipelago with one on Cocos Island to the northeast; originated from an original species found on St Lucia Island in the Caribbean.  Archipelagos create idea geographic isolation and speciation as selective pressures on different islands lead to evolution and divergent adaptation.

The morphological changes on the Darwin Finches can be visualized from the size and shape of beak of each finch though all finches look alike requiring trained eyes of an experienced birder to distinguish them perfectly.  Nevertheless, the diversity of structure apparent in this little group of birds aroused Darwin's interest in 1835 and was evolved from a mother species modified to different ends for specific functions.   Darwin Finches can be classified in four main groups according to the characteristic shape of their beaks and feeding habitats:

Ground Finches

Cactus finch; Large cactus finch;

Small ground finchMedium ground finch;

Large-billed ground finch; Sharp-billed ground finch

Tree Finches

Small tree finch; Medium tree finch;

Large tree finch; Carpenter finch;

Mangrove Finch

Vegetarian Finch Warbler Finch

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Small Ground-Finch (Española)

Hotspot

Santa Cruz

South Plaza

Santa Fé

San Cristóbal

Española

Floreana

Isabela

Fernandina

Santiago

Rábida

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Medium Ground Finch

(Santa Cruz)

Hotspot

Santa Cruz

South Plaza

Santa Fé

San Cristóbal

Floreana

Isabela

Fernandina

Santiago

Rábida

TOP

Large Ground Finch (Genovesa)

Hotspot

Santa Cruz

Isabela

Fernandina

Santiago

Rábida

Genovesa

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Cactus Ground Finch

(Santa Cruz)

Hotspot

Santa Cruz

South Plaza

Santa Fé

San Cristóbal

Floreana

Isabela

Santiago

Rábida

TOP

Large Cactus Ground Finch (Española)

Hotspot

Española

Genovesa

TOP

Sharp-beaked Ground Finch

(Genovesa)

Hotspot

Fernandina

Santiago

Genovesa

TOP

Small Tree Finch

(Santa Cruz)

Hotspot

Santa Cruz

Santa Fé

San Cristóbal

Floreana

Isabela

Fernandina

Santiago

Rábida

TOP

Medium Tree Finch

(Floreana)

Hotspot

Floreana

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Large Tree Finch

(Santa Cruz)

Hotspot

Santa Cruz

Floreana

Isabela

Fernandina

Santiago

Rábida

TOP

Warbler Finch

(Española)

Hotspot

Santa Cruz

Santa Fé

San Cristóbal

Española

Floreana

Isabela

Fernandina

Santiago

Rábida

Genovesa

TOP



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