Sorry this post was posted so late, we’ve been really busy with school!! 😦
1. Brown Pelican
The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is a distinctive large brown bird with a really long neck and oversized bill. It flies with its neck held in an ‘S’ shape and lives in flocks. It is generally brown with a paler head and has webbed feet. Juveniles are paler on the underside. These birds are widespread throughout the islands and can be seen hanging around fishing boats and piers in the main ports, hoping to find scraps of fish. Brown pelicans are one of the only two pelican species that dive into the water to fish! They plunge bill-first, sometimes completely submerging themselves, filling their throat pouch with seawater and then filtering out their prey.
Diet: Fish, sometimes crustaceans
Fun fact: As they are draining water out of their bills after diving, some other sea birds like gulls actually try to steal the pelicans’ catches right out of their pouches! :O This is called kleptoparasitism.
2. Magnificent Frigatebird
Magnificent frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens) are huge brownish-black seabirds. During the breeding season, males will inflate their magnificent red gular (throat) pouches. Males also have purplish sheens on their backs. Females have white breast and belly feathers, and are slightly larger than males. You can tell juveniles right away by their white heads and breasts. These frigatebirds are widespread throughout the islands and are the largest species of frigatebird.
Fun fact: This bird is also known as the ‘Man of War’ bird because of its piratical behavior at sea! It sometimes chases other seabirds and forces them to disgorge their meals, sometimes even holding their tail feathers and shaking them until they drop their food. How violent.
3. Great Frigatebird
The great frigatebird (Fregata minor) looks very similar to the magnificent frigatebird, only slightly smaller. You can tell the males apart by their green sheen, unlike the magnificent frigatebird’s purplish sheen, and the females apart by their red eye rings, unlike the other species’ blue eye rings. Juveniles have brownish patches on their heads and breasts. They can mostly be spotted at sea, fishing or stealing from other birds!
Diet: Fish and squid
4. Flightless Cormorant
We first spotted this bird characteristically hanging its stubby, ragged wings out to dry on shore. The flightless cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi), also called the Galapagos cormorant, is a flightless (obviously) brown bird with striking turquoise eyes. It looks like a duck, with its webbed feet and curved neck, except for its scruffy little wings. It’s endemic to the Galapagos, and since its arrival on the predator-free islands, it has evolved to swim rather than fly. It propels itself through the water using its strong legs, rather than its wings.
Diet: Fish, eels and octopus
Fun fact: These cormorants are globally vulnerable as they are only found on Fernandina and Isabela islands. They are threatened by El Nino events as well as introduced cats and dogs 😦 Luckily, females can breed thrice a year, so the population can recover.
5. Galapagos Penguin
We were surprised to find that there are actual penguins in the Galapagos! :O Apparently, the Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) can live away from the Antarctic because of cool waters brought by the Cromwell Current and the Humboldt Current. These penguins are endemic to the Galapagos and are the second smallest species of penguin after the little penguin. They have white stripes on their faces in a C shape, extending from the eye to the throat. They nest in small colonies in holes in rocks near the shore. Unfortunately, they are endangered due to El Nino events and low breeding rates.
Fun fact: These penguins are the only penguins that live north of the equator in the wild, as the northern tip of Isabela island crosses the equator.
6. Red-billed Tropicbird
We love these birds’ graceful flight and long fluttery tail feathers! The red-billed tropicbirds (Phaethon aethereus) are slender and mainly white, with black markings on their wings and black stripes through their eyes. Their bills are a bright red. Juveniles lack the tail streamers and have a yellow bill. These birds usually forage alone, plunge-diving to catch their prey or snatching flying fish in flight. They are highly pelagic – they spend most of their lives out at sea, only coming to land to breed in crevices on cliffs.
Diet: Fish, sometimes squid
Fun fact: While they can float on water, they are very awkward on land and have to push themselves along on their bellies with their wings because their legs are too short!