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Wildlife In The Galapagos

Photo © Hessell

Travel Guide South America Ecuador Galapagos Islands Wildlife In The Galapagos

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Introduction

land iguana on galapagos

land iguana on galapagos

© All Rights Reserved geranddebs

Most travellers go to the Galapagos Islands in order to experience the wildlife. There is stunning geology and natural features here although the strange and extremely timid animals truly captures people's attention. Most of the animals here are considered megafauna. Megafuana is an animal being in a small environment devoid of major predators becoming larger, filling a different niche and becoming extremely specialized. The problem that megafuana face is that being extremely specialized they do not adjust to change well. In the past megafuana became extinct because of natural phenomena like volcanic eruptions, cooler periods or warming periods in the planets cycle. Sadly most megafuana in the last hundred years became extinct because of humans or domesticated animals gone feral.

The Galapagos is one of the last places on earth with extensive megafuana. Places like Australia, New Zealand, Crete, North America, Hawaii and countless other little islands used to have extensive megafuana populations. In the Galapagos Islands a traveller can get a glimpse of what the world used to look like before humans came along.

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Birds

Blue Footed Booby

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

© All Rights Reserved Vanevi

  • Islands: They nest on several different islands
  • Habitat: Costal areas for nesting only
  • Diet: Fish, these birds dive at 60 mph and can reach 82 ft under water
  • Danger: Can get territorial near their nest, other then that watch out for poop.

The term booby comes from the spanish term "bobo" which means stupid fellow and boy are these birds dumb. They may be beautiful and extremely tame, making it easy to take photos, but they are dumb. The blue footed booby might take home the cake on the stupidity award. This bird has actually been known to make its nest in the middle of a hiking trial used every day of the year. The signature feature of this bird is its stunning blue feet. Another amazing things to watch is the mating dance it does. The blue footed booby is a marine bird that only comes to land in order to mate and raise its young.

Red Footed Booby

Red Footed Booby

Red Footed Booby

© All Rights Reserved Lavafalls

  • Islands: St Giles Island and Tobago
  • Habitat: Nests are made in low lying bushes near shore
  • Diet: Fish and Squid
  • Danger: Watch out for poop

The red footed booby is the smallest bird in the booby family. Their distinguishing feature is their feet that are so bright red that Dorothy would be jealous when comparing them to her amazing ruby slippers. These birds are graceful and beautiful fliers. Sadly this does not translate to their landings and take offs, because they need serious work making them look very clumsy. There are two sub species but both interbreed and live on the same two islands. The red footed booby also has a very complex mating ritual involving squawks, a dance and the male showing his blue throat. Red footed booby couples can remain together for several mating seasons.

Masked Booby

Another Booby

Another Booby

© All Rights Reserved brynster

  • Islands: Most Islands
  • Habitat: Sandy beeches and wintering at sea
  • Diet: Small fish
  • Danger: None, unless your the second child in a nesting

The masked booby is the largest bird in the booby family. Although a large sea bird it lacks the colorful feet of its cousins. The bird is white with black tipped wings. It has a yellow beak with black around its eyes and mouth. This makes the bird look like it has a mask and therefore giving the bird its name. They are amazing divers and eat smaller fish. Masked boobies always lay two eggs. One egg hatches before the other and the larger of the siblings always drives the smaller one out. The parents do nothing as the smaller bird quickly dies and is eaten by scavengers.

Waved Albatross

Galapagos - Mating ritual of waved albatrosses (Isla Española)

Galapagos - Mating ritual of waved albatrosses (Isla Española)

© All Rights Reserved sabrinakam

  • Islands: Many of the smaller islands
  • Habitat: Coastal habitats with lots of prey
  • Diet: Fish, Squids and Crustaceans
  • Danger: None

Waved Albatross, also known as the Galapagos Albatross, have several nesting spots in the Galapagos Islands. They forage about a 1,000 km off the cost of Peru for food then returning every year to the islands to rear young. These birds are stellar flier and able to fly for hours without the need to rest. They can fly over a 100 kilometers away from their nests in search of food. They are 86 cm long, weigh 3.4 kg with a bright yellow beak and can live up 45 years. They have an extremely complicated mating dance that is very entertaining. Sadly these these cute and goofy animals are critically endangered. Although they are protected within the park during the breeding season, their feeding grounds off the coasts of Peru and Ecuador are not completely protected.

Galapagos Hawk

Galapagos - Galapagos hawk on Isla Española

Galapagos - Galapagos hawk on Isla Española

© All Rights Reserved sabrinakam

  • Islands: Extinct on the islands of Baltra, Daphne, Floreana ,San Cristobal and Seymour
  • Habitat: The interior and coastline of islands
  • Diet: Insects, small rodents, snakes, baby Iguanas, baby turtles and baby birds
  • Danger: Is the only large raptor on the island making it the terror of all small animals

The Galapagos Hawk is a recent arrival to the islands only coming 300,000 years ago. These birds are known for their fearless nature towards humans and other animals. Like most raptors the females are larger being 55 cm from beak to tail and 120 cm from wing tip to wing tip. These birds hunt in groups at about 50 to 200 feet in the air, with the dominate bird being allowed to eat its fill before the others are allowed to start. Due to the proximity to the equator there is no distinct breeding season and nests are built in low trees or lava wedges and occasionally on the ground itself. Sadly the number of these birds has dwindled to only about 150 mating pairs, although there has been a come back in recent years. The closest relative to the Galapagos Hawk is Swainson's Hawk.

Great Frigatebird

frigate bird in galapagos

frigate bird in galapagos

© All Rights Reserved geranddebs

  • Islands: Most the islands
  • Habitat: Most of the Pacific and Indian Ocean
  • Diet: Flying Fish and Squid
  • Danger: None

The Great Frigatebird males are usually noticed right away by their large red pouch under there neck that is inflated to attract mates. While it is inflated the male birds squawks at the top of their lungs to grab the attention of passing females. Sometimes they even come into groups in an attempt to attract more ladies. After finding a mate the pair will remain monogamous for a mating season or two. The Great Frigatebird has been known to chase down other nesting birds to force them to regurgitate food for them. This is not thought to play a big part in their diet but Great Frigatebirds have been known to loose up to 50% of there mass while nesting. These seabirds do not dive into the water and only catch food that is near to the surface. They also have a massive migration across most of the Pacific and Indian Ocean. The Great Frigatebird is a large sea bird that is 85 to 105 cm in length, 205 to 230 cm from wing tip to wing tip and weighs 1 to 1.8 kilos.

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Mammals

Sea Lions

Mother and Child

Mother and Child

© All Rights Reserved brynster

  • Islands: All of the islands have sea lion colonies
  • Habitat: Land for breeding and resting, ocean for feeding
  • Diet: Fish, mainly sardines
  • Danger: Adult males have been known to attack male humans. Be careful when walking near adult male sea lions or during wet landings.

The Galapagos Sea Lion is a unique species that lives mainly in the Galapagos Islands and the Ecuadorian mainland. They have been spotted on some islands off the coast of Costa Rica. This species of sea lion is a slightly smaller then the Californian Sea Lion. The Galapagos Sea Lion is about 150 to 250 cm in length and can weigh up to 400 kg. The males are slightly larger then the female and when the males enter into adulthood they develop a slight lump on their head. Although clumsy on land sea lions are truly graceful underwater maneuvering with great ease among the rocks and waves. There main predators are sharks and killer whales, that tend to hunt sea lions when they go into deeper waters in search of food.

The adult male sea loins tend to bark quite often to designate their territory or harem of about 5 to 20 females. Because adult males cannot feed while protecting their harem it is usually only after a month or two before a better fed male defeats him in battle taking over the harem. The surplus males tend to collect on less favorable beaches and live a peaceful retired life. There is a constantly fluctuating population of about 20,000 to 50,000 sea lions in the Galapagos.

Dolphins

Bay of Islands - Dolphin

Bay of Islands - Dolphin

© All Rights Reserved Midworlder

  • Islands: Between all the islands
  • Habitat: Deep and shallow waters
  • Diet: Fish and other small marine critters
  • Danger: None

Dolphins populate the waters around the Galapagos Islands. These playful marine animals are known across the world for their cuteness, intelligence, energetic and playful nature. This species of dolphin are light grey in color, 1.2 meters long, weigh 40 kilograms and are very social. They can be seen riding the wakes of large boats and jumping out of the water off the coast. There main threats in the area are killer whales and fishing nets. Although their populations are affected greatly by the changing fish population sizes. Your best chances for photos are when your boat is cruising in deeper water.

Killer Whales

Killer Whale 2

Killer Whale 2

© All Rights Reserved chaddo

  • Islands: Off the shore of all the major islands
  • Habitat: Deep water
  • Diet: Dolphins, Sea Lions and Sharks
  • Danger: Only a few confirmed attacks on humans

The Killer Whale or Orca is very common off the coast of Alaska and Norway. There are species that live far away from shore and cruise the deep waters in search of prey. A few pods, packs of orcas, live regularly off the coast of the Galapagos Islands. There populations are extremely nomadic making them not a guaranteed sight. This is because they depend on large fish populations that support their main prey of Sea Lions and Dolphins. If the fish populations drop suddenly the Oocas leave the area quickly. These orca are 5 to 8 meters in length and can weigh more then 6 tons.

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Reptiles

Giant Tortoise

A Bath for Two

A Bath for Two

© All Rights Reserved brynster

  • Islands: Santiago, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Pinzon, Espaonola and Pinta
  • Habitat: Land
  • Diet: Cactus, Leaves, Vines and Fruit
  • Danger: none

There are over 11 different species of giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands and can grow to 1.3 meters long weighing over 300 kg. These reptiles are some of the oldest animals in the world to still be alive. They first appeared on the planet about 70 to 80 million years ago and once covered a huge territory. Until about hunderd thousand years ago giant tortoises could be found in most of Asia and Australia. Like most megafauna when they encountered a new predator it died out. Today they mainly live on scattered islands across the Pacific with their second largest habitat being the Galapagos Islands. The the oldest known turtle died at a 175 years old.

Marine Iguana

Galapagos - Marine iguanas taking a sunbath at Puerto Egas

Galapagos - Marine iguanas taking a sunbath at Puerto Egas

© All Rights Reserved sabrinakam

  • Islands: All
  • Habitat: Land and Sea
  • Diet: Seaweed
  • Danger: none

Marine Iguana's are the only known iguana to live and forage in the sea. They are unique to the Galapagos, live on all the islands, black in color and can grow to a meter and half in length weighing 1.5 kg. These iguana's primarily live on the coast but can also be found inland near marshes. Another amazing feature to these iguana's is there ability to drink salt water. They have a special gland that collects the salt then they spit it out of their nose. They are beautiful to watch swim in the water but throwing them into the water is bad. Charles Darwin considered these animals to be extremely ugly, although many people think that is an unfair judging.

Land Iguana

Land Iguana, Galapagos Islands

Land Iguana, Galapagos Islands

© All Rights Reserved andymoore

  • Islands: On many of the smaller islands, being reintroduced to other islands as invasive species are removed
  • Habitat: Coastal and inland areas of islands
  • Diet: Predominately cactus flowers with other plants and rarely insects.
  • Danger: none

Although related to the marine iguana the land iguana is an unique species. Land and marine iguana's have been known to interbreed, their offspring are sterile. Land Iguana's are further subdivided into two different categories. One with spines along the back and the other with out. Both species are yellowish in color and can grow to over a meter in length. It is estimated that land iguana's can live over 60 years. The species suffered greatly from interaction with humans and efforts are underway to reintroduce them to several islands.

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Fish

The thousands of fish that make Galapagos their homes, including several distinctly unique species, can be best observed whilst scuba diving

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This is version 28. Last edited at 11:10 on Aug 17, 09 by KoalaGirl. 4 articles link to this page.

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