The Galapagos Islands: A Birdwatcher’s Paradise #1
About 180 years ago, the HMS Beagle brought Charles Darwin to the turquoise waters and white beaches of the Galapagos archipelago. On these islands, Darwin encountered natural wonders, both animate and unanimated, unlike anything he had ever seen before. Some of these natural wonders, particularly the birds, helped spur him into his theory of evolution.
Most of these natural wonders remain on the island for us to see today. Moreover, due to the blessings of modernity, you no longer need half a year and a sailboat to explore the natural riches of the Galapagos Islands. Today, you are just a booking away.
Biologists, birdwatchers an
d nature-enthusiasts have all greatly benefitted from this. The Galapagos offer a flora and fauna unlike anything else. More so, due to the relatively peaceful condition of the Galapagos ecosystem, the animals feel quite comfortable with human presence, allowing visitors to come close to animals you otherwise would only see in documentaries. As a result, the Galapagos is a paradise for the birdwatcher. We have therefore taken it upon us to compile a list on the five most interesting birds of the Galapagos that the traveler might hope to see.
The Five Most Interesting Birds of the Galapagos
The Blue Footed Booby
The Blue Footed Booby does not only have a name that will make you chuckle; it also has an appearance that catches your attention. Their feet are, as the name indicates, bright blue, thus standing in clear contrast to its white and black body.
While providing mentionable amusement and awe to the onlooker, the color of their feet are in fact imperative to their survival. The female Booby chooses her mate based on the shade of his feet. The more intensely turquoise the feet, the better the male Booby is at feeding himself. Hence, the female chooses the Booby who eats the most, as a sturdy diet indicates the best ability to survive.
The Magnificent Frigatebird
The magnificent Frigatebird might be the animal embodiment of a Napoleon Complex. As the Frigatebird drifts through the air, it is only a slim, black figure gliding across the blue Pacific Sky. Nature, however, intended the bird to be more grandiose than that. When the Frigatebird seeks to attract a mate, it blows up an intensely red gullar sack on its chest, transforming the sack into a great, heart shaped balloon, doubling the size of the bird. Just like the Blue Footed Booby, nature provided the magnificent Frigatebird with this attribute to compete for the female’s attention. While the Frigatebird exists in large parts of Central America and in Cape Verde, the Frigatebird of the Galpagos Islands is genetically distinct from all the other types.
The Flightless Cormorant (or The Galapagos)
The ancestors of the Flightless Cormorant flew into the Galapagos Islands around two million years ago. It is thus safe to say that they are fairly well established tenants of the archipelago. During its longtime stay in the Galapagos, the Flightless Cormorant slowly lost its ability to fly, as indicated by its name. Due to absence of terrestrial predators coupled with a need to dive for food, the Flightless Cormorant simply had no need to fly. Instead, it developed a marvelous ability to move through water like a fish. The Flightless Cormorant, however, is not only different to other birds in this aspect. The gender roles of the species are the opposite from what is normal in the animal kingdom. Among the Flightless Cormorants, the female has to compete for the attention of the male. And after mating, it is the male who has to raise the young baby Cormorant.
The Galapagos Albatross
The Galapagos Albatross cannot boast the same flamboyant colors as the previous birds. However, the largest Galapagos Albatross can boast a wingspan of 250 centimeters (8,2 feet). In fact, the birds are so massive that if they do not leave the island of Española (its only breeding ground) before the wind subsides in mid-January, they`ll be stranded. The Galapagos Albatross is so heavy it cannot fly without strong winds giving it lift. If they manage to get on the last flight out of Española, they will spend most of their time living the good life either flying or floating along the shimmering coast of Ecuador and Peru, scouting for food. In fact, the only reason these birds actually visit land is for mating.
The birds which Darwin dedicated most attention and assessment in the Galapagos was in fact the mockingbirds. Yet, it is the Finches that has become associated with his name. They can boast neither unique color nor size. It was for a different reason they captivated Darwin. Although the Galapagos Finches belong to an intimate family and are only separated by relatively small distances, the Galapagos Finches have uniquely different beaks. Darwin noticed that the beaks of each different group of Finches were adapted to how it acquired its food. In his magnum opus ‘The Origin of the Species’, he noted that it was almost as if the beaks had been modified for different ends. And thus, the Darwin’s Finches were an important species for his theory of evolution.