The Galapagos Finch inspired Charles Darwin to develop the concept of Evolution. Their beaks and shapes reflect their specializations.
The extraordinary adaptation that the finches in Galapagos developed to the different habitats that the Islands present was considered by Charles Darwin as an important proof when he formulated the Theory of Evolution.
During his expedition to the Galapagos Islands in 1835, Charles Darwin noticed that fiches differ considerably in their structure from one Island to another.
There are a total of 14 species of Darwin's Finches (13 in the Galapagos Archipelago and 1 in Cocos Island), and all belong to the Passerine group (finches, sparrows, etc).
An ancestral Galapagos finch arrived millions of years ago, and because of the Islands' isolation, their geological make-up, odd weather for tropical standards, and a chain of Islands to hop around, it ended up into a set of different species (yes, over time) that differentiate themselves not only in behavior, but most important, their overall diet, and thus their beaks.
All Finches in the Galapagos Islands are sparrow sized and similar in appearance with gray, brown, black or olive feathers. They have short rounded wings and a rounded tail that often appears cocked to one side.
Most male Galapagos finch mature to a solid black color, while the females mature to a drab grayish color.
Exceptions are made for the Vegetarian and Tree Finches, the males never become completely black rather they have a black head, neck and upper breast. Warbler, Woodpecker and Mangrove Finches have more of an olive color.
Finches are all about the same size (10–20 cm). The differentiation between species are mainly in the size and shape of their beaks.
It is important to note that the beaks are well adapted to different food sources like for pecking wood, crushing seeds, and probing flowers for nectar.
Galapagos Finches may have similar colors and sizes but have different song melodies.
Because of their isolation in the Galapagos Islands, the Galapagos finch bird developed unique beak sizes and shapes and different behaviors too. Each of the finch species has a unique feeding niche.
Finches had to adapt to their new habitat in the Islands and the size and shape of their beaks reflect their specializations.
The Galapagos finch species also vary by what they eat some eating seeds and others insects.
The Ground Finches eat ticks they remove with their crushing beaks from Tortoises, Land Iguanas and Marine Iguanas and kick eggs into rocks to feed upon their contents.
On Wolf Island the "Sharp Beaked Ground Finch" is known as the Vampire Finch as it jumps on the backs of Masked Boobies and Red Footed Boobies pecking at their flesh and feeding on their blood.
Woodpecker and Mangrove Finch use small twigs and cactus spines as tools to dine on the larva stored in dead tree branches.
Though they have adapted to allow for specialized feeding most finches are generalized eaters.
The specialization developed allowing the birds to survive during the dry season or when little food is available. Then these specialized tools allow the birds to better compete for food sources with other animals in Galapagos.
The Galapagos Finch will remain as a living proof of the evolutionary importance of the Galapagos Islands.
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