Darwin Finch

Galapagos Island Photos Part III

Photo Credit: Paul Yarnall

The Darwin finch, obviously named after Charles Darwin, was an important element of his studies about evolution when he sailed into the islands in 1835 aboard the " H.M.S. Beagle". 

The birds can live to the ripe old age of 20 and come in colors ranging from black to brown, olive and grey.     

Throughout the Galapagos Islands can be found over 500,000 finches, encompassing 13 of the known 14 different species of Darwin finches. Depending upon the species, they feed on insects, seeds, fruit, even eggs that they drop against rocks to break.

A sub-species of the Darwin finch is aptly named the Vampire finch because it pecks the flesh and sucks the blood from the backs of red-footed boobies and masked boobies.  Darwin surely noticed this unique evolutionary trait that these boobies developed over the years, because they passively allow the Vampire finches to feed on their blood. 

Over the centuries the two bird species had a symbiotic relationship in which the finches kept the boobies free of parasites.  Needless to say, the boobies allowed this to go too far. No wonder boobies go extinct!

Darwin said of the finch that bears his name, "Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends."

Blue-footed boobies are probably the second most well-known inhabitant of the Galapagos Islands, second to the Galapagos tortoise. Since they are not afraid of humans you can get really close to take beautiful pictures.

A male blue-footed boobie lifts his feet up and down during the mating ritual as he struts his stuff to attract the female. She is drawn to males with the brightest feet, because brightness is directly related to the health and age of the male.  Male feet range in blueness from pale turquoise to vivid blue-green.

The female boobie will lay 1-3 eggs.  As the eggs hatch, boobies can engage in the practice known as facultative siblicide.  This is a fancy term for sibling rivalry carried out to the extreme, as larger, first-born baby birds peck and attack the newer arrivals until they are dead. 

This usually occurs when there is a shortage of food, but it is nature's way of insuring that there is sufficient food for the remaining birds and that the strongest birds live.  Survival of the fittest at its best, or rather worst!

This Galapagos  brown pelican, which is endemic to the Galapagos, is busy watching the tourists pass by from his perch at the water's edge.  These graceful birds are a delight to watch as they spread their wings and dive beak first into the ocean for fish.

This is an unwieldy and sometimes ineffective practice since the pelican brings up gallons of water in its mouth and has to wait until the water leaks out, often losing fish in the process.

These pictures were all taken from either a tour boat or along a normal walking trail.  You can take pictures of Ecuador like these in person by participating in a photo tour in the Galapagos.

This is the kind of tour boat that you can arrange from various tour agencies in Quito or directly from the Galapagos Islands at a low cost.  

Once you are living in Ecuador with Ecuadorian residency  you will be able to fully explore the Galapagos Islands at a very reasonable price, with discounts on park entrance fees as well as lower cost flights.  

Read more about these rare islands here.

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