Endemic Species of the Galapagos

The Galapagos, famous volcanic islands archipelago located about 1000 km off the coast of Ecuador are famous for their natural beauty and preserved fauna. There are a large number of endemic species, unique in the world.

  1. The Galapagos Buzzard

The Galápagos Hawk has a restricted distribution in the Galápagos Islands, and the species is extinct on several of these islands.

The adult has the overall ash-brown plumage. On the upper parts, the mantle has feathers slightly lined with buff white. The grey caudal covers are barred with white. The tail is pale grey and has several narrow, dark bars, about a dozen.

This hawk usually hunts in small groups consisting of one dominant female and several males. This hierarchy allows the female to feed first. They fly at heights ranging from 50 to 200 meters, making slides and sometimes a short hovering flight.

They can usually be seen perched on high branches, on lava outcrops or rocky mountains, and sometimes even on the ground.

  1. The Giant Turtle

They are the largest turtles in the world and have the longest lifespan. The largest turtles in the Galapagos are about 1.80 m long and weigh half a ton!

They can live more than 100 years in the wild, and captive individuals can reach 170 years.

Today, there are about 15,000 individuals in the archipelago. The giant turtle is threatened with extinction.

In November 2012, we learned of the death of the most famous of them, ” Georges Le solitaire “. He had been registered in July by the Ecuadorian government as a national heritage!

Namely: these huge peaceful animals can sleep up to 16 hours a day!

  1. The Sea Iguana

These iguanas are an excellent example of adaptation: when algae are scarce, they eat crustaceans, grasshoppers, and even terrestrial plants. When these foods become difficult to find, as, in extreme weather events associated with El Niño, their morphology changes and marine iguanas become thinner and smaller. The Galapagos are home to the only marine iguana in the world. These curious animals live on land and feed on a wide variety of algae on the rocks, and dive to depths of more than 9 m. They can then stay underwater for 45 minutes until their bodies are no longer able to withstand the temperature.

The population of the Galapagos consists of about 50,000 iguanas and is threatened by pollution.

  1. The Galapagos Penguin

Unlike other penguins, they can have up to three breeding periods per year, thanks to abundant food (fish and crustaceans) in the islands

They usually lay two eggs and incubate them for 40 days. About 1000 individuals live on the islands and are also listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List. The Galapagos penguin is the third smallest penguin in the world, only 20 cm tall.

In Spanish, they are called “Pájaro bobo”, which means silly bird. These penguins are the descendants of the Humboldt penguins (now extinct), and scientists think that they reached the Galapagos islands by the Humboldt current, which originates in Antarctica and flows north along the west coast of South America from the southern tip of Chile to northern Peru.

  1. The Apterous Cormorant

Also called Cormorant of the Galapagos, this great bird is unique because it is the only cormorant that has lost the ability to fly. These birds evolved in an isolated island environment free of predators. By progressive evolution, they no longer needed to fly and eventually lost this ability. Their wings have shrunk considerably, measuring only one-third of the area that would be required for a bird of this size to fly.

They live on the rocky shores of the volcanic islands, where they mainly fish eels and octopus. Their population is now estimated at 900 individuals.

  1. The Galapagos Sea Lion

These sea lions are among the largest animals in the Galapagos. They can weigh up to 550 kg! They are very popular with tourists who can admire them lying on the rocks, pillars, and even on the benches near the beaches. These sea lions are very friendly, and it is quite possible to dive and swim near them. However, it is common for groups of sea lions to fight each other over territory.

Females give birth to only one pup per year and care for it until it is two or three years old. Females live longer than males, up to 20 years. The Galapagos is home to about 50,000 sea lions.