Bird watching on the Galapagos
The Galapagos is right at the top of the world's most important locations for bird watchers. Though its contribution to life-list numbers will be only moderate, the Galapagos experience and its significance are overwhelming compensation.
Galapagos’ bird list is just 120 species, but of these 23 are endemic and 4 are near endemic. Birds here are amazingly fearless. For sheer spectacle, walking by a colony of nesting sea birds on Española or Genovesa is hard to beat.
There are 29 land bird species, of which 22 are endemic—most famously the 13 species of Darwin’s finch. There are also 4 Nesomimus mockingbirds, Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Dove, Galapagos Martin, Galapagos Rail and Galapagos Flycatcher. These are mostly found on the larger islands.
If land birds are a particular interest then you might stay for a few days at a hotel on Santa Cruz, such as Finch Bay Hotel, after your chosen cruise. If you base yourself there fully you would miss the 4 single-island endemics: Medium Tree-Finch and Charles Mockingbird (both on Floreana), Chatham Island Mockingbird (San Cristóbal) and Hood Mockingbird (Española) but could pick up all the rest.
Some key sea bird species have limited distribution, e.g. Red-footed Boobies (largest colony: Genovesa), Flightless Cormorant (Isabela and Fernandina), Galapagos Penguin (largest colonies: Isabela and Fernandina) and Waved Albatross (Española: April to December). Only a few boats include all 4 of these outlying islands. They tend to be the larger boats offering only 7 night cruises (see side panel).
Bird distribution lists may help you decide between different itineraries.
You should bear in mind that while the boats' naturalist guides will usually try very hard to accommodate the wishes of keen birdwatchers your visits to most islands will, in any event, be limited in time and to designated trails in order to comply with national park rules. The larger boats will often be able to bring together the birdwatchers on board into their own landing group.
General information on this region:
Boats for birders
Genovesa, Isabela, Fernandina and Española are the islands with the most attraction for birdwatchers. These otherwise general naturalist boats visit those islands on their current itineraries (subject to change, of course):
Birdwatching on the mainland
Other birding itineraries that could be coupled with the Galapagos:
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