Top Galapagos Islands Birds to See (Part One)
When asked what my favorite part of the Galapagos Islands is, I never know quite where to begin, as the surreal landscapes and friendly wildlife are all so incredible that I often feel like I’m walking through a real-life picture book.
I’ll just begin with the incredible birds of the Galapagos. It is difficult to narrow it down to my favorite birds, as there are dozens of bird species that reside at least part time in the Galapagos archipelago, all of which are fascinating and well worth discovering. Here are some of my favorites.
Up close, the giant waved albatross is enormous, the largest of all the Galapagos Islands’ winged creatures, with a wingspan that can reach—and you’re not going to believe this—more than seven feet. In fact, if you are lucky enough to see an albatross come in for a landing up close, it’s not a stretch to imagine it as a wobbly 747 landing on an airstrip. If you are visiting the Galapagos Islands during the fall, the albatross’ courtship display should not to be missed. Forget about seeing an albatross around the new year holidays—the birds are all out to sea from the beginning of the year until about April. Española Island is the only permanent waved albatross nesting site in the entire world.
To watch a giant waved albatross waddle up to the edge of a cliff, take a few steps, and then plunge off into the open air below is an interesting sight, to say the least. The albatross’ size and awkwardness is enough to make one wonder how the huge bird can ever leave the ground without leaping off a cliff. Immediately, though, the bird rises back up to the cliff’s edge, then elegantly and effortlessly flies away. The waved albatross is, in fact, the only true “seabird” in the Galapagos Islands, spending years at a time at sea. Lost sailors would be horribly mistaken to identify an albatross as a sure sign that land is nearby.
Galapagos finches, otherwise known as Darwin’s finches, are perhaps the best known of all the birds in the islands. Although these finches don’t have ornate colors or behavioral displays, their scientific and historical value is immensely significant. Charles Darwin observed various finch species during his visits to the Galapagos Islands, and although he mistakenly identified them as warblers and other birds, he noted a variety of differences between populations. These finches’ physical and behavioral variations provided the catalyst for Darwin’s theory of evolution, forever altering humanity’s understanding of life on Earth.
Today, there are 13 endemic finch species living in the Galapagos Islands. Among them are four species of ground finch, two species of cacti finch, three tree-finch species, and the woodpecker, vegetarian, mangrove, and warbler finches. Scientists speculate that every one of these finches evolved from a single common ancestral species.
For many, boobies are a highlight of any Galapagos Islands tour. It may be because of their accessibility in large colonies that nest along the trails. More likely, though, it is their funny name, in conjunction with the equally humorous”booby dance” that they perform during courtship.
There are three species of boobies that nest on the islands: blue-footed, red-footed, and masked. Of the trio, the blue-footed booby is the most commonly seen and perhaps the most popular. The blue webbed feet, face, and beak make for great photographs, particularly during the famous courtship dance, which will have you laughing out loud while trying to take photos at the same time.
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