The Beautiful Birdlife of the Galapagos Islands

With up to 750,000 seabirds making their home throughout the archipelago, the Galapagos Islands are one of the most abundant and exciting birdwatching destinations on Earth.

The most effective way of experiencing sightings of the vast array of species is on a Galapagos cruise, stopping off at various locations around the islands along the way.
The birds of the islands are extraordinarily unfazed by humans, so some marvellous “up close and personal” encounters can be experienced on a Galapagos cruise.

The Beautiful and Abundant Birdlife 

There are 28 endemic species of birds, as well as numerous resident non-endemic breeding species and frequent non-breeding visiting species. The following are some of the most popular with birdwatchers on a Galapagos cruise.

The Boobies

Along with the largest colony of Red-footed Boobies in the world (on Genovesa), the archipelago is home to the Blue-footed Booby (with large colonies on Seymour and Española) and the Nazca Booby, which is the biggest of all the species and found on most of the islands. Their elegant, showy courtship displays and impressive size (up to 3ft in length) make them a sought-after sight.

Darwin’s Finches

These 13 species may not be particularly impressive visually, but they gained their name for the huge biological role they played in Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories. All the species are thought to have evolved from one single ancestor, and Darwin formulated many of his ideas after observing their diversity (differences in size, plumage, feeding habits and beak size and shape) and ability to quickly adapt to the habitats of each island. Among them are the Small Ground Finch, the Warbler Finch and the Large Cactus Finch.

The Galapagos Hawk

Although it has no predators and is the only breeding raptor in the archipelago, this endemic hawk is extinct on several islands, as a result of human hunting. There are thought to be just 150 pairs left, so a sighting is a memorable experience for avid birdwatchers. The best places for the opportunity are Santa Fe, Bartolomé, Fernandina, James, Isabela and Española.

The Waved Albatross

The Waved Albatross is the largest bird in the archipelago, with a wingspan reaching up to eight feet. While on land it is somewhat uncoordinated, when it takes to the skies it lives up to its reputation as one of the world’s most graceful birds. The only place to see this magnificent bird is on Española, where more than 12,000 pairs live in a number of colonies.

Galapagos Penguin

The world’s most northerly dwelling penguin is one of the island’s five endemic seabirds. It is able to survive at this northern latitude due to the chilly waters surrounding the islands, which are a result of the Humboldt and Cromwell Currents. Like the other wildlife here the birds are fearless of humans, so it’s not uncommon for visitors to enjoy snorkelling amongst the penguins (as well as fur seals and Sea Lions) of the breeding colonies off islands such as James, Isabela and Fernandina.

Experience the Birdlife on a Galapagos Cruise

For wildlife lovers, a Galapagos cruise is a true once in a lifetime experience. Along with the excellent birdwatching opportunities to see these and so many other speciesScience Articles, the chance to encounter the island’s unique mammals and reptiles is hugely exciting.