Galapagos Islands Birds

Many Galapagos Islands Birds are endemic or not found anywhere else in the world.


The isolation, both from continental South America and each other, has given each Island in Galapagos a unique wildlife characteristic.

As wildlife colonized the Islands, it began a process of adaptation to the specific conditions, and Charles Darwin's observations here during his voyage on the Beagle helped crystallize his epic theory.

Today, you can still see virtually all the creatures Darwin did an immense array of fascinating, fearless, and endemic birds. Here's a description of the most important Galapagos Islands birds.

Galapagos Penguins

The Galapagos Penguin is a truly remarkable bird. Most penguins love the cold and their populations are found in Antarctica or in southern parts of Chile and Argentina.

Not only is the Galapagos Penguin the exception, but it lives on the Equator. The Galapagos Penguin still likes things relatively cool: they only breed in the colder waters near Fernandina and Isabela Islands.

Galapagos Penguins are world's only tropical ones. They live permanently in the tropics and is the only species to do so.

Galapagos Flamingos

The Greater Flamingo arrived from the Caribbean and is the most impressive and colorful of all the lagoon and shore birds. It is also one of the endangered species in the Galapagos Islands.

Introduced carnivores, like cats and dogs, can easily feed on the chicks.

The flamingos live in small numbers in the brackish waters of lagoons dotted around several of the islands. Their bright pink coloring stands out against the dark background of volcanic lava.

It is thought that fewer than 500 flamingos are now present on Galapagos. Unlike much wildlife on the Islands, these Galapagos Islands birds can only be viewed at a certain distance. They will often desert their nests if disturbed.

Flamingos love privacy: They do not tolerate disturbances when breeding. They can be seen in Floreana, Isabela, Rabida, Santa Cruz, and Santiago Islands.

Galapagos American Oystercatchers

These Galapagos Islands birds feed on crustaceans and mollusks and are also able to open crab shells with their strong beaks.

This is a distinctive black and white bird with a striking orange bill.

It has a loud shrill call and is frequently both seen and heard around the shoreline.

These handsome looking counter-shaded waders use their bright beak to stab a bivalve between the shells of many mollusks and slice the strong adductor muscles to get at the meat inside, they also hammer away on the shell of a sea urchin, crab or mollusk.

They are somewhat approachable and actually come close to tourists.

Chicks are often seen trying to get their own food when just a few weeks old.

Galapagos Herons

Herons and egrets are long-legged wading birds found over much of the temperate world, and it's no surprise there are six species of herons found in the Galapagos islands, five of whom are resident.

Several of these species are quite familiar to North Americans such as the great blue heron and the great egret in particular.

Usually herons feed on small fish or crabs, hence their regular appearance along rivers and coasts.

But in the Galapagos Islands, they also prey upon lizards, small iguanas, young birds, and turtle hatchlings.

Though large birds, they are sometimes hard to spot: they will stand motionless, patiently waiting for an unsuspecting meal to wander within range of their long, darting neck.

Galapagos Finches

The Galapagos Islands are home to 13 species of finches, belonging to 4 genera.

These finches all evolved from a single species similar to the Blue-Black Grassquit Finch Volatina Jacarina commonly found along the Pacific Coast of South America.

Once in the Galapagos Islands the finches adapted to their habitat and the size and shape of their bills reflect their specializations.

Vegetarian Finch and Ground Finch all have crushing bills while Tree Finch have a grasping bill and Cactus Finch, Warbler Finch and Woodpecker Finch have probing bills.

All Galapagos Finches 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 finch mature to a solid black color, while the females mature to a drab grayish color.

Galapagos Mockingbirds

The mockingbirds are extremely tame and very curious birds. They will happily approach visitors on the beach to see whether there is any food or water.

There are four different species of these Galapagos Islands birds.

Three of these are specific to individual Islands and one species may be found all over the Archipelago.

Although tortoises and finches are the organisms that most commonly come to mind when thinking of Darwin, the Galapagos Islands, and evolution, it was the mockingbirds, or mocking-thrushes as Darwin called them that first drew Darwin's attention to the strange diversity of species within this Archipelago.

Galapagos Hawks

Though once widespread throughout the central Islands of Galapagos, the endemic Galapagos hawk (Buteo galapageoensis) is now endangered on all the inhabited Islands.

It is a dark and handsome bird, similar to the Swainson's hawk of North America, with lightly barred tail feathers.

It feeds on land lizards and small iguanas, native and introduced rats, and smaller birds such as doves and mockingbirds. The eyesight of theseGalapagos Islands birds is fantastic.

Being at the top of the natural food chain in the Galapagos Islands, this hawk is virtually fearless, and quite easy to approach.

Galapagos Dove

The Galapagos dove is endemic to these Islands and is found in the more arid zones of the main Islands. A process of evolution on Genovesa Island has softened the spines of cactus plants and thereby allowed the Galapagos dove access to pollinate the flowers.

This has occurred due to the lack of bees that would normally perform this function.

These Galapagos Islands birds are among the more pleasant to encounter on the Archipelago. They are pretty, tame and well-mannered creatures.

It is reddish brown with black and white markings, touches of incandescent green, red feet and a bright blue eye ring. Its bill is curved downward, larger and more curved than most other doves. Though usually very silent, its low call reminds some of a mourning dove.

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