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Galapagos Island

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Galapagos Island

The Galapagos Islands are unique amongst other islands around the world, wildlife and its behaviour make the Galapagos Islands an attraction for scientists and nature lovers. Gracious blue footed boobies and the endemic giant tortoises, sea lions, mysterious islands creatures like birds that lost their ability to fly (flightless cormorants), penguins at the equator, armies of marine iguanas and other species, endemic to the Galapagos islands help us learn how friendly animals can be when not threatened. Come and learn to live in harmony with nature at the Galapagos islands. galapagos island
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Galapagos Islands birdlife - land birds

Few species of land birds inhabit the Galapagos Islands, and three-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 man 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 receive more attention than the land birds. The sea birds 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 these latter birds 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 coloured, smaller, and slenderer, is considered by Mr. gould as specifically disinct. 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, form of 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

Resident Species

Dark-billed Cuckoo
Barn Owl
Short-eared Owl*
Vermillion Flycatcher*
Yellow Warbler*
Paint-billed Crake
Smooth-billed Ani 

* Endemic sub-species

Endemic Species

Galapagos Dove
Large-billed Flycatcher
Galapagos Hawk
Galapagos Mockingbird
Hood Mockingbird
Chatham Mockingbird
Charles Mockingbird
Galapagos Rail
Galapogos Martin
Darwin's Finches:
Small Ground Finch
Medium Ground Finch
Large Ground Finch
Cactus Ground Finch
Large Cactus Ground Finch
Sharp-beaked Ground Finch
Vegetarian Finch
Small Tree Finch
Medium Tree Finch
Large Tree Finch
Woodpecker Finch
Mangrove Finch
Warbler Finch 

Galapagos Islands birdlife - coastal birds

The Galapagos Islands coastline comprising of beaches, rocky shores, mangrove lagoons and tidal salines, provides many habitats for the resident shorebird species.

The coast of the Galapagos serves as home to a diverse group of shore birds, 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.

Galapagos Islands sea birds

The cool, oxygen-rich waters surrounding the Galapagos support an abundant marine flora and fauna which, in turns, support a variety of sea birds. The most obvious and frequently seen sea birds are members of the order Pelecaniformes. In the Galapagos, these include two species of frigate bird, three species of booby, the brown pelican, the red-billed tropicbird and the flightless cormorant

No marine region would be complete without sea gulls (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.

A third order of sea birds 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 sea bird represented in the Galapagos, remarkably, is the Sphenisciphromes, the penguins! The sole penguin found on the equator is the endemic Galapagos penguin.

Galapagos Islands birdlife

A total of 140 species of birds have been registered in Galapagos: 58 residential, 76 migratory, and 6 introduced. Close to 50% of the resident birds are endemic to the Galapagos. Some of these species are currently threatened due to factors associated with human presence.

The majority of animals seen by visitors are birds. A haven for bird enthusiast the Galapagos is home to a variety of sea, coastal and land birds including three species of booby, penguins, finches, flightless cormorants and waved albatross to name a few. The shear number and the seemingly tame nature of these birds is sure to amaze all who visit.

Galapagos birdlife can be classified in 3 main categories:
Galapagos Islands wildlife, flora and fauna possible animals to be seen on cruises and tours, visitor sites on cruise itineraries

San Cristobal Island

Cerro Brujo:
it is an impressive geological site, Is an eroded tuff cone that offers roosting sites for brown pelicans, boobies and gulls. The white coralline sand beach is beautiful and idyllic for sun bathing and swimming. Behind the beach there is a brackish water lagoon where common stilts, ducks, herons and other coastal birds feed.

Santiago Island

Egas Port: Is located at the West of James Island. This site has been seriously affected by the activities of the salt mining in the 1960’s and by the large quantities of introduced animals, especially the goats, which have caused great damage to the vegetation. Nevertheless, visitor sites are all of great beautyand scientific interest.

Rábida Island: This island has a striking dark red colour due to the high content of iron in the lava and its oxidation. Behind the beach there is a picturesque salt water lagoon. Where white–cheeked pintail provides a beautiful views from its southeastern cliffs.

North Seymour Island: This island is located to the North of Baltra. Its a flat and low-lying island, formed as a result of the uplift of a submarine lava formation. The vegetation is mainly low and bushy, and contains the largest colony of magnificent frigate birds in the Galapagos. There is also a large population of blue footed boobies nesting from may to November and by the coastline resides a colony of playful sea lions.

Genovesa island: The main attraction is the Prince Philip´s Steps. This site is part of the narrow arm of land which encircles the eastern section of Darwin Bay. It is an excellent place to observe various species of sea birds. After ascending 25 m up the cliff, the visitor arrives to a lava platform, where masked boobies, red footed boobies and frigate birds nest.The trail crosses a section of dry “palo santo” forest, typical of the island´s vegetation

Santa Cruz Island

Charles Darwin Interpretation Centre: Although the great majority of Galapagos visitors come here to observe and appreciate natural wonders, it is also interesting to learn how the protection and conservation of the islands are carried out. Some of the principal attractions are: National Park information centre, Van Staelen Exhibition Hall, Breeding and Rearing Centre for young tortoises, Lonesome George (tortoise from Pinta), adult Galapagos tortoises in captivity.

Highlands of Santa Cruz island: The trail to the highlands leaves from Bellavista and passes through the agricultural zone, near the National Park boundary, the Miconia Zone and then goes to the Fern and Sedge zone. With clear weather (unpredictable) this area affords beautiful scenes of rolling hills and extinct volcanic cones covered with grass and lush greenery all year round.

Bartolome Island: A small barren island, located in Sullivan Bay off James Island, Bartholomew has two areas to visit. In one of them it is possible to climb to the summit of the island, from where visitors can observe a variety of volcanic formations, spatter and tuff cones, lava flows and lava tubes. The moon landscape provides the most scenic panorama in the archipelago. At the other site, the visitor may swim and snorkel from a beautiful beach or walk across the isthmus to another beach that faces south, where swimming is prohibited. Multi –colored fish and occasionally penguins may be seen at the base of the tall pinnacle rock which dominates Bartholomew’s landscape.

Sullivan Bay: This visitor site provides a unique opportunity to view a recent lava flow of approximately 100 years old. The east side of James Island is known to have barren volcanic landscapes, dominated by black pahoehoe (ropy) lava flows of very young age. On the surface of the lava is possible to observe some tree molds that were carried down by the flow of the fresh lava. It is also interesting to see how some Mollugo plants are starting to colonize the small lava fissures.

Floreana Island

Post office bay: Historically, this site is the location of a wooden barrel that was placed in the 18th century by the crew of a whaling ship. It has been used since this time by mariners and tourists as a post office. The idea is to carry letters or postcards to their destination by hand. Apart from being the Post Office Barrel, this site was the landing area for some of the first colonists.

Devil’s Crown: This islet consists of an eroded volcanic crater which owes its present form to the strong wave action. The interior is excellent for snorkelling and the exterior is considered one of the prime areas for SCUBA, especially when the current is strong. It is very important to note that only competent divers should dive in these conditions.

EspaƱola island

Punta Suarez: This rocky point of land sustains one of the most impressive and varied colonies of sea birds in the Galapagos. Along its southern shore, high cliffs rise up from the sea affording the visitor spectacular views of soaring birds and of the blow whole, where water spouts up to 50-75 feet into the air according to the intensity of the surf.

Bahia Gardner: Located on the northereastern coast of Hood, Gardner Bay provides an excellent beach for relaxing, swimming and an opportunity to observe sea lions.
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