• Eryn

The Birds of the Galápagos Islands


A blue footed booby hovering above the red colored rocks of the environment as it lands

For the 56 bird species that are native to the islands, the Galápagos is truly a special place to live. The Ecuadorian government was very quick to recognize and protect the volcanic islands' beauty, so the birds have never thought of humans as a threat. It is also indeed a very memorable place for us to experience the birds' ways of life, for their protection has left them quite unfazed by our activities. Always maintaining a respectful distance from them as to avoid being a disturbance, we were able to see some of the Galápagos Islands' most iconic birds up close doing what they do best naturally in the wild. Every species has a unique way of starting a family, and booby birds such as the blue-footed boobies do this in a very interesting way. Whistling sweetly, males remain on the ground and perform small dances, trying to impress the females flying above. When a female is interested, she lands beside the male and the courtship ritual begins. The male first presents the female with a gift, a small twig, or a stone. If this pleases the female, she will return the favor with a gift of her own. Soon, another gift is given... and another... until a new couple is formed.

A blue-footed booby spreads its wings as it looks up from the rocky ground
A male blue-footed booby as he whistles in the hopes of attracting a potential partner.
Two blue-footed boobies standing together, one looking at the twig the other holds in its beak
The proud exchange of a small twig between a couple.

For frigate birds, the males display their love by inflating their throat sacs that look like bright red balloons. Males will first choose a decent nesting site, and roost atop that bush or tree. He then blows up his throat sac, so females can then easily spot the male and decide whether she likes his choice of residence. She then picks what she feels is the best place to build a nest, and the deal is sealed. Males will hence spread their wings in pride, boasting to others about their new partner. Sometimes, however, females might change their mind, leaving the males so suddenly. Often, when a male is too busy showing off, he won't even realize the female isn't there anymore!

A male frigate bird with its wings spread and throat sac inflated standing beside a female on a bush
A male frigate bird with his inflated red throat sac, spreading his wings in pride to show off his new partner.

These two examples are only a tiny fragment of how the many birds of the Galápagos Islands behave, but even so, are already incredibly colorful and unique. I still remember on our voyage in the Arctic, and though it was an amazing experience, I felt we were very removed from the wildlife there. Extremely skittish and cautious, the animals of the Arctic were used to humans being a threat having long been hunted by those who live there. I am glad places like the Galápagos still exist, where humans and wildlife are able to coexist in harmony so that we can truly appreciate the wildlife it has to bring.



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