Birdwatching in the Galapagos Islands is an active endeavor-days are spent spotting species on land and at sea. Around 750,000 seabirds call the archipelago home at some point during each year. From April to December, the world’s population of waved albatrosses is in residence on Espanola Island. The largest colony of red-footed boobies is also found in the islands.
There are several water and shore birds in the Galapagos Islands, 56 species native to the Archipelago, 29 migrant bird species, and 11 that are found in the islands and elsewhere. Keep reading for eight Galapagos birds to add to your list when visiting the islands.
The White-Cheeked Pintail Duck
The white-cheeked pintail duck is one of four species to ducks found in the Galapagos and the only endemic member of the group. Sporting a white with crowded black-spotted plumage, the black and red-billed ducks are often seen in pairs in the lagoons and mangrove coves of the islands.
Females can lay up to 10 eggs at a time and tend to their flock for thirty days before hatching begins. Both sexes are good divers but typically feed by dappling.
The only one of its kind to live in the Galapagos Islands, the Pied-billed Grebe is found in the marshes, mangroves, and lagoons of the islands. Dirty brown plumage is highlighted by a white chest and belly as well as the underside of their wings.
The grebe resembles a duck only smaller and more compact with a shorter, black-banded beak. They are strong, quick divers and feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, and small fish.
The Galapagos heron or Lava heron is an everyday highlight for birdwatchers in the islands. The small, swift, grey-feathered bird frequents the lagoons, mangrove forests, and lava riddled coast line of most of the islands-feeding off of crabs and small fish. They are deft hunters, moving quickly to capture crabs with their sharp beaks.
Great Blue Herons
Great blue herons are the most common of the five of its kind found along the shores of tidal pools and the shallow waters off the shores of the islands.
With sleek and slender bodies colored volcanic grey with white chest and bellies, great blue herons feed on small fish and sometimes iguanas and turtles.
One of the 29 species of birds of the Galapagos Islands that migrate alongside humpback whales and whale sharks, is the whimbrel, species considered part of an elite club that makes the journey from the coasts of Europe.
The elegant bird has intricate plumage, alternating brown and white with a chain mail pattern across the chest. They are waders, found in the shallow waters and tidal pools along the coast and around the lakes, ponds, and marshlands of the highlands.
They announce their arrival each year with their call-a trembling whistle that turns into a repetition of thrills. Found all over the archipelago, they feed on small fish, crabs, and insects. Before leaving for the season they include berries in their diet.
One of the guardians of the islands, the black-necked stilt’s formal black and white vestige is a welcome sight when exploring the islands. They are found both inland, in the highlands, and along the coast. Their diet depends on where they choose to call home. On the coast, the long-legged stilt wades into mudflats and into shallow waters and uses in long beak to feed on marine creatures like mollusks and small fish. Inland and in the highlands, stilts feed on small insects and larvae.
The lava gull is the rarest of its species-only found in the archipelago and in small numbers.
The gulls are the only nocturnal gull in the world and differ from others of their kind by their light grey plumage, soot-colored tail feathers and cap, and a red circle around their eyes.
The red circle plays an important part in the lava gulls ability to hunt at night. The circle secrets a fluid that acts as natural night vision. When paired with a slightly larger eye, lava gulls can fly farther into the ocean and pick up squid and fish in the water without having to dive below the surface to feed.
The call of the lava gull is described as a combination of a scream and a growl with a series of clicks. Acting as sonar, this spooky off-pitch song helping the birds to zero in on their prey when visibility is at a minimum.
The endemic birds nest in high wind areas and use sturdier materials for construction that the traditional twigs and sticks including lava pebble and rocks.
The American Oystercatcher is a member of a group of shorebirds that welcome visitors to long stretches of beach, tidal pools, and rocky outcrops around the islands.
They feed on mussels, clams, and oysters as well as a good sampling of other small marine creatures like jellyfish and sea urchins.
Their black, brown and white feathers are detailed by a startling red beak, black hood, and a bright yellow pupil outlined in red.
For more information about your options for land-based and cruise trips through the Galapagos Islands, contact a member of our team using our toll-free numbers or the contact form on this site.