Galapagos Sea Birds

Galapagos Sea Birds are very graceful and observing them on flight is one of the most delightful experiences.


Most of the birds on the Islands are endemic, particularly the Penguins which are the only species of Penguin to be found in the world that live in a tropical climate.

Sea birds in Galapagos are classified in 3 main species:

  • Pelicaniformes
  • Sphenisciphromes
  • Procellariformes
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Here's a description of the most important birds you will see in the Galapagos Islands:



There are three kind of boobies in the Galapagos Islands, these are: the Blue footed booby (Sula nebouxi), Red footed booby (Sula sula) and the Nazca boobies (Sula dactylatra).

The Blue Footed bird is a tropical seabird and it is the most commonly seen booby bird in Galapagos.

Blue Footed Boobies have longer tails than the other two species, the tail is useful fort hem when feeding in the Ocean close to the shores.

The Nazca Boobies were formerly known as Masked Boobies.

They are white birds with dark wings and unlike blue footed boobies, they have a fixed mating season with one peculiar situation: sibling murder.They are also the largest of all three boobies.

Red-Billed Tropicbird

These Galapagos sea birds have their nests in the crevices and cliffs of some islands in Galapagos such as Espanola, South Plaza, Genovesa, and North Seymour

Tropicbirds have two long tail feathers, a red bill and a white body with black wing edges.

They look for food way out in the Ocean feeding mainly on fish and squid. They lay a single egg and both male and female birds incubate and feed their chick.

When the chick grows it will be very similar to its parents in everything except in the beak which has a yellow color.

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The Frigatebirds belong to the family Fregatidae. There are five species in total and two species are found in the Galapagos Islands:

The great frigatebird (Fregata minor) and the magnificent frigatebird (Fregata magnificens).

The great frigatebird has a world wide distribution, and can be found throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The Magnificent Frigatebird can be seen in the Caribbean, on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the American Continent. The Galapagos Magnificent frigatebirds is an endemic subspecies.

You can see Galapagos frigatebirds on the Islands of: North Seymour, Floreana, Isabela, Genovesa and also on San Cristobal island. Read more about Galapagos Frigatebirds here

Flightless Cormorant

The flightless cormorant of Galapagos (Nannopterum harrisi) is the only cormorant in the world that does not fly. They live only in the Islands of Fernandina and Isabela, where it is easy for these birds to find food and nesting.

These Galapagos sea birds are endemic to the Islands and have a population of about 800 pairs.

Galapagos Pelican

galapagos pelican

The scientific name of this bird is Pelecanus occidentalis. It is commonly seen resting in mangrove trees.

This bird is also considered an endemic subspecies of Galapagos.

Galapagos Pelicans have a brownish body color and a white neck. They have a large beak with a bag underneath.

It is a graceful flier and for feeding purposes they dive into the water with its wings extended and the mouth open. It's really quite a view to see these Galapagos sea birds flying gracefully over the ocean.

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Galapagos Penguin

The scientific name of the Galapagos Penguin is Spheniscus mendiculus. These are the only penguins that live in a tropical environment, right on the Equator.

They can be seen abundantly at Isabela and Fernandina Islands where the water is colder, but there are also some of them at Bartolome Island and Rabida Island

They feed only during the day near the shores on small fish such as sardines and mullet. Penguins depend on the cold Humboldt Current to bring them fish for feeding.

Penguins swim in a graciously way letting only their heads above the water with the rest of their bodies submerged. Sometimes they swim with their head down in the water when they are looking for fish.

And when they move into action, they dive under the water and move at an amazing speed, using their powerful flippers for propulsion and their feet as a rudder. More About Galapagos Penguins


Waved Albatross

The waved albatross Diomedea irrorata is without a doubt the biggest bird in the Galapagos Islands.

These Galapagos sea birds are also among the most graceful mainly due to the courtship ritual which is more than just a mere reproductive prelude.

This event occurs during the months of April, May and June of each year. They can be seen only on Espanola Island

This Island is the most southerly of the archipelago, it is highly recommended to visit due to its high portion of endemic fauna. See pictures and description of Waved Albatross here

Storm Petrel

galapagos storm petrel

Storm petrels are small sea birds. They don't land in the water as other birds do, instead they dip their feet in and wave over the surface, making them look as if they are walking on water. They feed on plankton.

There are 3 species of Storm Petrels in Galapagos, these are: Wedge Rumped, Band rumped, White vented.

The wedge rumped petrel has a large triangular white patch that extends to its tail. The remaining two also have a white patch but smaller though. All 3 species have a brown colored body.

The band rumped petrel feeds only during the day and breeds in two groups, one from February to October and the other group from October to May laying in both cases a single egg. The wedge rumped petrel breeds from April to October and the single egg is incubated by both parents.

Audubon's Shearwater

galapagos audubon shearwater

The scientific name is Puffinus iherminieri. These Galapagos sea birds are medium sized and are commonly seen from the ships. They have dark brown wings and heads, their throat is white as well as their bellies.

Audubon's shearwater birds have a worldwide distribution, but the ones present on Galapagos are considered an endemic subspecies.

These Galapagos sea birds can be seen all around the Islands, mainly near the cliffs where they nest. They feed on small fish that they catch by diving to depths of around six feet. Commonly they fish and feed in large flocks and get mixed with pelicans and brown noddies.

Recommended Reading

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides). Click to order from Amazon

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides)

With 250 photos and tons of great information, this is an essential addition to your pre-Ecuador and -Galapagos reading!

There are better guides if you are only interested in the islands, but for a combination trip taking in Ecuador as well, it's hard to beat.


Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands. Click to order from Amazon

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands

Small enough to fit into your pocket, yet containing comprehensive information and pictures of all the species you will encounter in the islands, this book is a must-have for nature lovers.

Let's face it, Galapagos is largely about the wildlife. This book will NOT disappoint, and you'll have a great memento of your time with the seals, penguins and tortoises!


Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World. Click to order from Amazon

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World

Definitely NOT a tourist's guide, but if you're like me, and find the history and geography of the islands irresistible, then this is a title you ought to invest in.

Stunningly illustrated, and painstakingly researched, those of you who have been there will be enchanted again -- and those of you who have not will begin planning your trip!


Moon Spotlight Galapagos. Click to order from Amazon

Moon Spotlight Galapagos Islands

If you're a seasoned Galapagos regular, then you will probably prefer something weightier.

But for first-timers looking for simple, down-to-earth advice on where to go, what to see and the best shopping and eating on the islands, this is the book for you.

Small, well-priced, and reliable!


Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire. Click to order from Amazon

Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire

The 10th anniversary edition of this photographer's tour of the Galapagos Islands is a stunning book, worthy of anybody's coffee table.

This is a perfect post-trip talking point -- a great way to remember what you've seen, and spread the word amongst your envious friends!


Also On This Galapagos Site

Lava Gull Birds

Endemic Galapagos Animals

Luxury Galapagos Islands Tour

Galapagos Holiday Specials

If you have any questions about the Galapagos Sea Birds or if you'd like to have more information about our recommended Galapagos Land Tours to visit these Islands, You can Contact us here

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