The Galapagos Islands are home to 56 native bird species. 45 species are endemic Galapagos birds, which mean they are exclusive to the archipelago. Another 29 species of migrant birds pass through the islands. Land, shore, and sea birds can be found here in the Enchanted Islands.
The Galapagos albatross, Phoebastria irrorata, which used to be known as the waved albatross, is the largest Galapagos bird. They have a wingspan of between 7 and 8 feet and can weigh up to 11 pounds. Española Island is the albatross’ exclusive breeding site. These amazing Galapagos birds mate with the same partner every year. Both male and female parents help with taking care of the young.
The most famous Galapagos birds are the blue-footed boobies, whose scientific name is Sula nebouxii. The root word of their name is “bobo,” the Spanish word for “fool.” They were given this name because of how clumsily they walk on land, but they are actually very elegant divers. Like many Galapagos animals, natural predators are lacking for this species, so they tend to be fearless in their interactions with humans. One of their most important breeding grounds is Seymour Island, but can be seen all over the archipelago.
There are 14 species of Darwin’s finches, and they are part of the tanager family, belonging to the subfamily Geospizinae. Genetically they are not very similar to true finches! Each of the species of finches has its own set of island coverage. Finches are endemic to a single island, which means they are found exclusively in one place. Other species of finches are present on all of the islands. Each species’ physical characteristics have specifically adapted to the food available to them in their habitat. Geospiza magnirostris, the large ground finch, feeds on seed that it has to break, so it had developed a large, strong beak. Camarhynchus parvulus, the small tree finch, is perfectly prepared to hunt for insects with his small beak. G. difficilis, commonly known as the sharp-billed ground finch, is a vampire-like bird, it sustains itself by drinking the blood of other birds.
The only gull in the world that feeds at night is the Creagrus furcatus, swallow-tailed gull. They eat the fish and squid that come up to the ocean’s surface at night looking for plankton. Swallow-tailed gulls are most likely to be found nesting on rocky ledges and cliffs, but they can be found on all islands. Like the albatross, these Galapagos birds find lifelong mating partners, and both males and females care for the chicks.
Frigatebirds are Galapagos’s pirates of the air. There are two species of frigatebirds found on the islands, great and magnificent. Darwin’s nickname for these birds was “condors of the ocean” because of their wide wingspan. These birds are incredible fliers, and can impressively stay airborne for months at a time. These aerial maneuvering skills come in handy for these pirate-birds, whose feeding strategy is to take fish from other sea birds in mid-air.