15 species you must see on your Galápagos Islands trip

Discover fascinating facts about wildlife inhabiting the archipelago that inspired naturalist Charles Darwin.  

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Iguana, Galapagos Islands

1 Galápagos giant tortoise

The world’s largest tortoise gave these islands their name. Spanish sailors who discovered the archipelago named it after the species.

2 Marine iguana 

The marine iguana must sunbathe to raise its body temperature before making a short trip into the sea. It feeds on algae.

3 Land iguana

Darwin unkindly described the land iguana as having a “singularly stupid appearance.”

4 Lava lizard

They have unusually well developed colour vision, which plays an important role during courtship – the females develop bright red throats.

5 Flightless cormorant

As the name suggest, this bird is unable to fly. The flightless cormorant feeds on bottom-dwelling fishes, which it hunts for by making pursuit-dives. 

6 Swallow-tailed gull

This is one of the world’s few nocturnal gulls. Night-time feeding enables it to avoid the piratical attentions of the marauding frigatebirds.

7 Galápagos (or Darwin’s) finches

The 13 endemic finch species have proved extremely valuable to evolutionary theory. They are thought to have evolved from a common ancestor.

8 Giant prickly pear

The prickly pear is a tall tree cactus which has developed a well-protected trunk to spare it from the ravages of giant tortoises and land iguanas.

9 Lechoso tree

This attractive tree, which can reach a height of more than 15m, is an unlikely relation to the humble daisy.

10 Galápagos sealion

The Galápagos sealion is one of the most conspicuous and numerous marine mammals found on the Galápagos Islands.

11 Blue-footed booby

Instantly recognisable by its bright blue webbed feet, this comical looking seabird usually nests in colonies of up to several hundred. Masked boobies and red-footed boobies can also be seen on the Galápagos Islands.

12 Magnificent frigatebird

The aerial manoeuvres of this seabird captivated Darwin so much so he gave the species the nickname “condor of the ocean.”

13 Galápagos penguin

About 95 percent of the population can be found on the islands of Ferdinandina and Isabela.

14 Waved albatross

These large birds spend most of their lives at sea, but come ashore to breed on the Galápagos Islands.

15 Red-billed tropicbird

Largest of the three tropicbird species and an energetic flier that spends a lot of time over the open water.

16 Galápagos hawk

This bird of prey has no natural predators on the Galápagos Islands and therefore shows very little fear of humans.

17 Galápagos mockingbird

Of the four species that occur in the archipelago, the Galápagos mockingbird is by far the most widespread and had an influence on Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

18 Galápagos fur seal

The breeding season of this species lasts from mid-August to mid-November. Pups are born at the end of September or beginning of October.

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