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Sea Birds - Galápagos


Bird life is everywhere in Galapagos, and the marine species are particularly fun to watch and identify. Because of the cold-water currents that cruise through the archipelago, there is an unusual abundance of marine life, which in turn supports large colonies of different avian species.

The Galapagos species are specially adapted to working together. Take the three species of booby, for example. The blue-footed booby fishes close to shore, thrilling visitors by putting on a fantastic show of plummeting after the fish that make up its diet. The Nazca booby fishes at an intermediate range from shore, and most visitors will never get to see them fish. The red-footed booby fishes far out to sea, often flying many miles simply to find a good fishing spot. In this way, the three booby species do not compete with one another for food resources.

Some species of sea birds are endemic to the Galápagos Islands. The three most noteworthy are the Flightless Cormorant, the Waved Albatross and the Galápagos Penguin. The Flightless Cormorant is a marvel of evolution. Cormorants are common all around the world, but the Galápagos variety found that there were few predators on the islands from which they needed to flee. Their wings became unnecessary, and the Galápagos Cormorant no longer flies, although in other senses it looks and acts like any other cormorant. The Galápagos Penguin is the one of the smallest penguins and the only one to live in the northern hemisphere (good trivia question there!). If you’re lucky enough to get to Española, during the right months of the year, you’ll get to see the rare Waved Albatross, a species not only unique to the Galápagos but also to Española Island. These large, ungainly birds (which look vaguely like a duck on steroids) travel great distances during the months of January, February and March, returning from across the world to mate on Española.

The two varieties of Frigatebird (the Magnificent and Great subspecies) wheel overhead, robbing boobies of their hard-won catch. The brown pelican crashes into the water, bobbing up with a beakfull of water: flopping fish can be seen inside as he slowly lets the water out. The Swallow-tailed Gull looks at you from her rocky perch, black eyes inscrutable. A Red-billed Tropicbird sails gracefully past, long white tail streaming.

There are many other sea birds in the islands. Shearwaters and petrels can be seen skimming the waves, if you look for them. There are plovers and terns, and other species of gull that are not endemic to the islands. A knowledgeable guide should be able to point out most of these species to you as you spot them.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to The Galápagos Islands: The Galapagos Sea Lion, Stingrays, Going to Galapagos: the Quito Airport, Galápagos Health & Safety, Herons and Egrets in the Galapagos, Great Blue Heron, Herons and Egrets in the Galapagos, Lava Heron, The Islanders Take Over and Sergeant-Major.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
21 Apr 2010

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