Birds of the Galapagos

I’ve always sort of mocked birding. You walk for hours, trail whispers and sounds in the forest, only to catch the briefest of glimpses of a wing as it sails away from you. It never sounded like my idea of fun. Sure, I like hiking, and we tend to see a fair number of birds doing that, but to go out with the express intent of looking for birds has always seemed to me to be silly.

But there’s nothing silly about birdwatching in the Galapagos. It is just outstanding. You can’t help but be captivated by them and want to find out their names and what they eat and their courtship behavior, and so on. It’s the accessibility that makes all the difference. First, the terrain is very open. And second, the birds have absolutely no fear of humans. They nest right onshore and often right on the designated people trails. You can walk up to within mere feet of their nests full of baby birds. They will fly in and land directly next to you, or sail a few feet above your head. Boobies and pelicans will dive headlong into the water, splashing you in the process, and come up with a mouthful of fish. The frigate bird will then swoop in and a battle will ensue as they try to steal the catch. All this within an arms reach. You could join the fish fight too, if it wasn’t for that pesky no touching rule.

So I think you get my point, birdwatching in the Galapagos is awesome, and I’m sure all you want to see is the pictures. So here we go. I’ll just go ahead give you what you all want, Boobies! (the Blue-Footed kind).

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There are two other boobies, the Nazca Booby and the Red Footed Booby. Nazca’s just aren’t as pretty, as you can see, and we didn’t see any Red Footed Boobies as they were nesting on far away islands we didn’t visit.

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But don’t quit on me now, because there are lots of other really cool Galapagos birds, starting with my second favorite, the Frigates. They are just a strange bird in general. They don’t catch their own food, they steal it from other birds. When they’re young, they can get their own food at six months, but if their parents don’t feed them until they’re two, they’ll starve. Lazy birds. And the males during courtship inflate these red membranes under their beak and sit there all day courting females … but since they mate for life, they only accept “their” female. The Magnificent Frigate makes a drumming sound by pounding his beak on his red “drum”, while the Great Frigate makes a turkey like gobbling sound by shaking his whole body (hilarious to see!). That’s how the two species (which look very similar) keep from interbreeding.

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