Feathery Island Days

Birding and Wildlife in the Galapagos
By Blanche Gelber
  |  Gorp.com
Page 1 of 6   |  

After my retirement, the Maine farmhouse that formerly served as a seasonal escape hatch became my home. I was newly able to spend even more time birding in the Maine countryside. There is a matter-of-fact pleasure to donning sturdy mud boots or splashing on insect repellent in anticipation of a trek through marsh or along rooted forest path to spot the early-morning activities of local and migrating birds.

Then a 40th wedding anniversary provided me with license for a real splurge: to go somewhere far away and very special in celebration. What corner of the world had I always dreamt of visiting but never actually believed I'd get to see? The answer came loud and clear: the Galapagos Islands. During the 1960s a wave of startling media coverage had introduced innocent and unforgettable Edenlike images of trusting primitive creatures. Here was the opportunity to realize a longstanding dream and meet the friendly beings in person.

"Endemic" is the word describing uncommon life-forms found in a particular region. Because the Galapagos oceanic islands were never part of any mainland, the plants and creatures that found their way there adjusted and developed in isolation. Thus many of the Galapagos Islands' species are peculiar to the area. Furthermore, several distinct worlds can be found on separate islands in close proximity, each uniquely populated within the extraordinary totality of the archipelago.

About a quarter of the 19 species of seabirds are unique to the Galapagos. Endemic are the Galapagos penguin, flightless cormorant, lava gull, swallowtail gull, and waved albatross. Other families of seabirds include shearwater, several petrels, frigatebirds, tern, tropicbird, pelican, and the three boobies.

Other birds migrate between the Galapagos and other points. Shore and lagoon birds include familiar migrants: oystercatcher, flamingo, stilt, whimbrel, tattler, sanderling, pintail duck, semipalmated plover, ruddy turnstone, two gallinules, and five types of herons. Trade winds probably helped blow migrating birds from South America to the islands.

There are three major categories of birds found on the islands: sea, land, and shore or lagoon birds.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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