The Galapagos Islands Finches are one of the most extensively recognized examples of research in evolutionary biology.
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 on 1835, Charles Darwin noticed that fiches differ considerably in their structure from one Island to another.
It is said that these observations on Galapagos finches inspired Darwin in his theory on the Origin of Species and Natural Selection.
There are 13 species of Galapagos finches that belong to 4 genera.
All of these finches come from a single species similar to the Blue-Black Grassquit Finch (Volatina Jacarina)which are commonly found along the coasts of the Pacific Ocean in South America.
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. Finches' birds are all brownish or black but have different song melodies.
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Because of their isolation in the Galapagos Islands, the Galapagos Islands finches developed unique beak sizes and shapes and different behaviors too. Each of the finch species has a unique feeding niche.
Galapagos finches had to adapt to their new habitat in the Islands and the size and shape of their beaks reflect their specializations.
For example the Vegetarian Finch and Ground Finch have all crushing beaks, The Cactus Finch, Warbler Finch and Woodpecker Finch have probing beaks and the Tree Finches have a grasping beak.
The evolution of Galapagos Islands Finches is incredible, some of them developed a strong beak, which made it possible for them to crack hard seeds in search for food.
Other finches developed very fine and long beaks, to reach insect larvae inside tiny holes.
The Woodpecker and Mangrove Finches learned to use a little stick to drive the larvae out of a cactus plant.
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Galapagos Islands Finches by Genus and Species:1) Genus Camarhynchus- Vegetarian Finch (Camarhynchus crassirostris)
- Large Tree-Finch (Camarhynchus psittacula)
- Medium Tree-Finch (Camarhynchus pauper)
- Small Tree-Finch (Camarhynchus parvulus)
- Woodpecker Finch (Camarhynchus pallidus)
- Mangrove Finch (Camarhynchus heliobates)
2) Genus Geospiza
- Large Cactus-Finch (Geospiza conirostris)
- Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch (Geospiza difficilis)
- Vampire Finch (Geospiza difficilis septentrionalis)
- Medium Ground-Finch (Geospiza fortis)
- Small Ground-Finch (Geospiza fuliginosa)
- Large Ground-Finch (Geospiza magnirostris)
- Darwin's Large Ground Finch (Geospiza magnirostris magnirostris)
- Common Cactus-Finch (Geospiza scandens)
3) Genus Certhidea
- Warbler Finch (Certhidea olivacea)
4) Genus Pinaroloxias
- Cocos Island Finch (Pinaroloxias inornata)
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The appearance of Galapagos islands finches is quite similar. They are all sparrow sized with brown, black or gray feathers.
They have short rounded wings and a rounded tails. Most male finches are black, while the females have a grayish color.
The Vegetarian and Tree Finches are not completely black. Warbler, Woodpecker and Mangrove Finches have more of an olive color. Click Here to Know More About Other Galapagos Birds
Some finches eat seeds and others insects. Others like the Galapagos Ground Finch eat eggs from giant tortoises and land iguanas.
On Wolf Island the Sharp Beaked Ground Finch is known as the Vampire Finch because they feed from the blood of Masked Boobies and Red Footed Boobies.
Woodpecker and Mangrove Finches use a small brushwood or cactus spine to pull out the larva contained in dead tree branches.
Galapagos Islands finches have developed all these abilities to survive during the dry season or when little food is available. The term Darwin's Finches was first applied in 1936, and later popularized in 1947 by David Lack.
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