August 9th, 2022 – Axel Baquerizo
The “Galapagos Big 15” refers to a list of iconic animal species found in the Galapagos Islands that are known for their unique adaptations and contributions to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Here are the 15 animals that make up the Galapagos Big 15:
These 15 species are considered some of the most iconic and important animals of the Galapagos Islands and are a major draw for visitors to the archipelago. They represent the unique and diverse ecosystem of the Galapagos and the importance of conservation efforts to protect these species and their habitats.
These are just a few examples of the incredible wildlife that can be found on the Galapagos Islands. Each species has its unique characteristics and adaptations that have evolved over time in response to the islands’ unique environment.
We will show you some of their characteristics, as well as their behavior, day-to-day life, and where you can find them in the Galapagos Islands. Click and learn more about the Galapagos Wildlife Month by Month
Most of the animals that you will find on the Islands are endemic to the Galapagos, which means they only exist in this location. Since many of them face extinction, they are given quite strict care. If you intend to travel in the future in order to safeguard the survival of these creatures, you must follow the following rules.
One of the most recognizable creatures of the Galapagos Islands is the Galapagos Giant Turtle, often known as the Galapagos Tortoise.
Because to their dome-shaped shells, which shield them from predators and extreme weather, Galapagos Giant Turtles have successfully adapted to the hard environment of the islands. They consume a range of flora, such as grasses, cactus pads, and fruit, as they are herbivores.
The Galapagos Islands’ history was significantly influenced by these tortoises. They were extremely overpopulated since they were once hunted for their meat and oil by sailors and pirates. Visitors may now see these incredible creatures in their native habitat on the islands thanks to conservation efforts that have protected and restored their populations.
These are only a few of the Galapagos Giant Turtle’s numerous unique characteristics. Be sure to take the time to see these incredible species up close if you ever have the chance to travel to the Galapagos Islands.
This wonderful species can be seen in different parts of the Galapagos Islands, such as: Santa Cruz and Isabela islands, but can also be seen in Española, Pinzón, Santiago or San Cristóbal.
The Galapagos Islands are home to another remarkable type of turtle, the Galapagos Sea Turtle. The mild seas surrounding the Galapagos Islands are home to Galapagos Sea Turtles. They have been observed living in sheltered coves, lagoons, rocky shorelines, offshore locations, and open ocean.
While visiting the Galapagos Islands, there are many of chances to see Galapagos Sea Turtles if you’re interested. Popular activities that give you the chance to see these fascinating creatures up close and in their natural habitat include snorkeling and diving tours.
These turtle photos are fantastic; you can find them while diving; they are usually found on reefs, so they are in a very beautiful ecosystem, and you can swim with them because they are very friendly. While diving or snorkeling with Galapagos Sea Turtles can be a wonderful experience, it’s necessary to do so properly and with a certified guide to ensure the safety and protection of these incredible animals and their ecosystem.
Sea turtles are endangered animals; they are hunted for their meat, and this must be addressed because they could become extinct in a matter of years. Even if they are in danger, you can always visit them with respect and responsibility to take care of them.
These tortoises can be found all across the Galapagos Islands, we can see them on the coasts of all the islands that comprise the Galapagos. Santa Cruz Island is the highest concentration. These will greet you upon your arrival on each island, making them one of Galapago’s unique endemic species.
Gardner Bay on Española Island, Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz Island, and Las Tintoreras on Isabela Island are a few of the well-known places to watch Galapagos sea turtles. Yet, these turtles can also be found in a variety of different locations near the islands.
The Galapagos blue-footed booby is a species of marine bird that is native to the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. These birds are recognized for their turquoise-blue feet, which are vivid shades of blue. Their undersides are white, while their wings and back are brownish-gray in color. They have a long, pointed beak with a blue-gray tip that is made of yellow.
Blue-footed boobies males will frequently use their feet to undertake elaborate courtship displays in order to attract a mate, and the intensity of the blue coloration on their feet is regarded to be a sign of their general health and reproductive fitness.
The majority of blue-footed boobies’ diet consists of fish, and they will dive into the water from considerable heights to obtain their meal.
Their capacity to swim underwater while utilizing their wings to essentially “glide” through the water is another well-known trait.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) rates the Galapagos blue-footed booby as a species of least concern, however numbers on several of the archipelago’s islands have been declining recently as a result of habitat degradation, imported predators, and other threats. To help safeguard these recognizable birds and their distinctive island habitat, conservation initiatives are in the works.
Blue-footed boobies can be found throughout the Galapagos Islands, as they are one of the most common and widespread bird species in the archipelago. They are typically found along the rocky shores and cliffs of the islands, where they build their nests out of sticks and twigs.
The following are some of the best locations to see blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos:
Isabela Island: This is the largest island in the Galapagos and is home to a number of blue-footed booby colonies, including one at Punta Albemarle.
San Cristobal Island: This island is home to several blue-footed booby colonies, including one at Punta Pitt.
The Galapagos red-footed booby (Sula sula) is a bird species that is found primarily in the Galapagos Islands, located in the eastern Pacific Ocean. They are named for their distinctive red feet, which are bright and colorful.
These birds are well adapted to their marine environment and are excellent divers, using their streamlined body and wings to plunge into the water to catch fish and other prey. They also have a unique behavior known as “sky-pointing,” where they stretch their neck and bill towards the sky in a display of courtship.
Overall, the Galapagos red-footed booby is a fascinating and unique bird species that is well adapted to its environment and an important part of the Galapagos ecosystem.
In the Galapagos Islands, the red-footed booby can be found on several islands, including Genovesa, Espanola, San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz. These islands offer a variety of habitats for the birds to live in, including rocky cliffs, mangrove forests, and sandy beaches. The red-footed boobies may also be seen in other parts of the Galapagos, as they are known to fly and forage over large distances in search of food.
Visitors to the Galapagos Islands can observe these fascinating birds by taking guided tours or visiting designated wildlife viewing areas.
The Nazca Booby (Sula granti), also known as the Masked Booby, is a seabird species that is native to the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. It is the least conspicuous species of booby, and although it looks similar to the colorful boobies, its behavior is very different.
This species is very competitive, and it is the species that takes away the nesting spaces of the other two booby species. This allows them to locate in the best areas to avoid predators and have more food. This species can be seen up to 100 meters above sea level, giving them an advantage over other birds. Their tail feathers, which are very different from those of other birds, help you identify them in the air.
The Nazca booby is very shy, making it difficult to see them up close. They do not like the company of humans, so most of their territory is found on less populated islands, such as Floreana, Genovesa, and Española.
Here are some characteristics of the Nazca Booby:
Physical Appearance: The Nazca Booby is a large bird with a white body, black wings, and a yellow bill. It has a black mask around its eyes, which gives it its alternative name of Masked Booby. The feet of the Nazca Booby are a pale blue color.
Size: The Nazca Booby is one of the larger species of boobies and can grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) in length with a wingspan of up to 5.5 feet (167 cm).
Diet: The Nazca Booby feeds on fish and other marine creatures that it catches by diving into the water from heights of up to 100 feet (30 meters).
Breeding: The Nazca Booby breeds on the Galapagos Islands, building its nests on the ground or on low bushes. They lay 1-3 eggs per clutch and both parents take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks.
Behavior: The Nazca Booby is a social bird that often breeds in large colonies on the islands. They are known for their impressive courtship displays, which involve males presenting sticks or other objects to females. They also have a distinctive call that sounds like a honking noise.
Habitat: The Nazca Booby is found primarily on the Galapagos Islands, where it nests on rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, and other areas close to the shoreline.
Conservation Status: The Nazca Booby is considered a species of “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), although like other Galapagos seabirds, it is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, habitat loss, and disturbance from human activity.
In the Galapagos Islands, the Nazca Booby can be found on several islands, including Genovesa, Espanola, Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Santa Fe. These islands offer a variety of habitats for the birds to live in, including rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, and lava fields. The Nazca Booby may also be seen foraging and flying over the surrounding waters, as they are known to travel long distances in search of food.
Visitors to the Galapagos Islands can observe these fascinating birds by taking guided tours or visiting designated wildlife viewing areas.
The Galapagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) is a bird of prey that is endemic to the Galapagos Islands, which are located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador.
When you think of animals at the top of the food chain, you usually think of lions or bears, but in the Galapagos Islands, this position is claimed by the Galapagos Hawk, an extraordinary bird. It is a treat to watch, it can do pirouettes as well as train, but although the Galapagos are typically free, they can be seen hunting in the upper portion of the Pacific waters, which is also very beautiful. Galapagos eagles are extremely fast and can fly high.
These birds may be found on most of the Galapagos Islands, however, eagles prefer areas with iguanas because it is their primary food source, but don’t worry, it won’t hurt you because it is highly courteous and friendly with humans. They are very shy, so try not to ask her for a selfie.
Here are some characteristics of the Galapagos Hawk:
Physical Appearance: The Galapagos Hawk is a medium-sized hawk with dark brown feathers and a light brown head. It has yellow eyes and a powerful hooked beak that is used for catching and tearing apart prey. The legs and feet of the Galapagos Hawk are yellow.
Size: The Galapagos Hawk can grow up to 56 cm (22 inches) in length with a wingspan of up to 127 cm (50 inches).
Diet: The Galapagos Hawk feeds primarily on insects, small mammals, and other birds, as well as carrion. They are also known to eat marine iguanas and Galapagos tortoise hatchlings.
Breeding: The Galapagos Hawk breeds in the dry season, typically between June and December. They build nests in trees or on rocky cliffs, and the female lays 2-3 eggs per clutch.
Behavior: The Galapagos Hawk is a solitary bird that hunts during the day, often soaring over the islands in search of prey. They are known for their sharp eyesight and agility in the air.
Habitat: The Galapagos Hawk can be found on several of the Galapagos Islands, including Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, Santa Cruz, and San Cristobal. They prefer arid and rocky areas with open spaces for hunting.
Conservation Status: The Galapagos Hawk is considered a species of “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), although they are still vulnerable to threats such as habitat loss, hunting, and the introduction of invasive species. Conservation efforts are ongoing to protect the habitat and populations of these unique birds in the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Hawk can be found on several of the Galapagos Islands, including Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, Santa Cruz, and San Cristobal. They are typically found in arid and rocky areas with open spaces for hunting, such as lava fields, volcanic cones, and coastal cliffs. The Galapagos Hawk is a territorial bird and may be observed perched on rocks or trees, or soaring over the islands in search of prey.
Visitors to the Galapagos Islands can observe these fascinating birds by taking guided tours or visiting designated wildlife viewing areas. However, it is important to remember that the Galapagos Hawk is a protected species and should not be disturbed or approached too closely.
The Galapagos Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is a unique species of flamingo that is endemic to the Galapagos Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador.
¿Flamingos? Yes, and even there is unusual to find Flamingos in South America or even outside the Caribbean, we can see Flamingos during Galapagos trips; although this species is a derivative of the American species, it is unique and endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Its majesty, as well as its color and unique legs, make it a visual treat to see this bird, which creates a very beautiful ecosystem around it.
They are one of the largest birds on all the Galapagos islands, reaching 140 cm, this makes them larger than certain turtles. If you want to appreciate a specimen of this species, you should be very cautious because these birds are very shy, so try not to get too close. You can see them on most islands, however the highest concentration of population can be found on Isabela island, that is another reason to visit this island that, in furthermore to its beauty, contains a wide variety of animals to have fun and create memories with.
Here are some characteristics of the Galapagos American Flamingos:
Physical Appearance: The Galapagos Flamingo is a large bird, with a distinctive pink plumage and long, thin legs. They have a long, curved beak that is used to filter food from the water.
Size: The Galapagos Flamingo can grow up to 120 cm (47 inches) in length with a wingspan of up to 150 cm (59 inches).
Diet: The Galapagos Flamingo feeds primarily on small crustaceans, algae, and other small aquatic creatures that it filters from the shallow saltwater lagoons in which it lives.
Breeding: The Galapagos Flamingo breeds in the rainy season, typically between December and June. They build their nests on mud flats or in shallow water, and the female lays a single egg.
Behavior: The Galapagos Flamingo is a social bird that lives in flocks. They are known for their unique feeding behavior, where they stand on one leg and filter food from the water with their beak.
Habitat: The Galapagos Flamingo can be found on several of the Galapagos Islands, including Isabela, Floreana, Santa Cruz, and Santiago. They are typically found in shallow saltwater lagoons with brackish water.
Conservation Status: The Galapagos Flamingo is considered a species of “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, they are still vulnerable to threats such as habitat loss, pollution, and the introduction of invasive species. Conservation efforts are ongoing to protect the habitat and populations of these unique birds in the Galapagos Islands.
Flamingos can be found in the Galapagos Islands, specifically on the island of Floreana. They inhabit a brackish lagoon called “La Playa,” which is located in the southern part of the island. The lagoon is also home to other species such as sea turtles, white-cheeked pintails, and several types of shorebirds. It’s worth noting that the flamingo population on Floreana is relatively small, and sightings are not guaranteed.
The Galapagos Islands are home to two species of frigatebirds: the Magnificent Frigatebird and the Great Frigatebird. Both species can be found throughout the islands, with the Great Frigatebird being more common and widespread.
The Magnificent Frigatebird is primarily found along the rocky coasts of the islands, where it feeds on fish and other marine life. The males are known for their striking appearance during the breeding season, when they inflate a red throat pouch to attract females.
The Great Frigatebird is also found along the coasts and can often be seen soaring over the islands. It feeds on fish, squid, and other marine life, as well as stealing food from other birds. Males during breeding season inflate a bright red throat pouch to attract females.
Both species of frigatebirds are known for their impressive aerial displays and are a common sight for visitors to the Galapagos.
If you think of the most remarkable bird, this is the first thing that comes to mind. If you were wondering its chest is not against water, well the real use for his fluffy chest is that this bird uses it to dance in search of a partner, and this act is something that visitors enjoy watching because, in addition to puffing out their red chests, the frigate birds have a peculiar sound and dance that makes this a very interesting time to live.
Meeting this species is something spectacular, in addition to being visually entertaining, they are very friendly, so they get much closer to humans than other birds, so you can take photos with these birds, although it is ideal not to disturb them during their search for a mate, these birds are possibly a bit harder to find because they do not like to be in the same territory as the Galapagos hawk due to their rivalry, They are usually found on the islands of Floreana, Genovesa, Seymour, and San Cristobal.
Here are some characteristics of the Galapagos Frigatebirds:
The Great Frigatebird is more common and widespread in the Galapagos than the Magnificent Frigatebird. They can be found on most of the islands, while the Magnificent Frigatebird is less common and primarily found on the islands of North Seymour, Genovesa, and San Cristobal.
Frigatebirds in the Galapagos can often be seen nesting in colonies, with males puffing up their bright red throat pouches to attract females during breeding season. Visitors to the Galapagos can observe frigatebirds on guided tours or while exploring the islands’ coasts and wildlife-rich areas.
Galapagos land iguanas are another unique species of iguana found only in the Galapagos Islands. They are a larger and more terrestrial species than the marine iguana, and their diet consists primarily of vegetation such as cacti, leaves, and fruits.
The Galapagos land iguana has a distinctive yellow coloration and can grow up to 4 feet in length, with males typically being larger than females. They have long claws and powerful legs that enable them to dig burrows for shelter and protection from predators.
One of the most interesting facts about Galapagos land iguanas is that they were once on the brink of extinction due to habitat destruction and the introduction of non-native species such as rats and feral cats. However, conservation efforts have helped to stabilize their populations, and they can now be found on several islands throughout the Galapagos.
If you see something running very fast along the beaches, you are correct, it is a land iguana, they are very shy, so they will not let you touch them, besides being so fast, they have something that makes them so special, and yes, it is their colors, it depends a lot on which island they are located on, but they are usually earthy yellow as well as brown or even green, these are a great company since many of these iguanas like to sunbathe.
Iguanas are known for their amazing ability to adapt to their environment; you can see them eating flies and cactus, and if you get to make friends with one, it will be very friendly to you; all you have to do is give him a couple of insects.
Although this species is not native to Galapagos, it creates a very friendly ecosystem as it is very fascinating to see their customs and the way they live together, one of which is their way of running, they can cross small distances of water running over it, making them one of the strangest and most fabulous species that should not be missed on a trip to Galapagos.
Galapagos land iguanas have several distinctive characteristics that set them apart from other species of iguanas:
Size: Galapagos land iguanas can grow up to 4 feet in length, making them one of the largest species of iguanas in the world.
Coloration: They have a distinctive yellow coloration that helps them to blend in with their surroundings.
Diet: Unlike marine iguanas, Galapagos land iguanas are primarily herbivores and feed on vegetation such as cacti, leaves, and fruits.
Habitat: They are a more terrestrial species than marine iguanas and are typically found in dry, arid regions on the islands.
Burrowing behavior: Galapagos land iguanas are skilled burrowers and will dig extensive networks of tunnels and chambers to escape the heat of the sun and to avoid predators.
Endangered status: At one point, Galapagos land iguanas were critically endangered due to habitat destruction and the introduction of non-native species, but conservation efforts have helped to stabilize their populations in recent years.
Galapagos land iguanas are endemic to the Galapagos Islands, which are located off the coast of Ecuador in South America. They can be found on several islands throughout the archipelago, including Santa Cruz, Isabela, Fernandina, and North Seymour.
However, the specific locations where Galapagos land iguanas can be found may vary depending on the time of year and the availability of food and water. In general, they prefer dry, arid regions and can often be spotted basking in the sun or seeking shelter in the shade of rocks and vegetation.
It is important to note that the Galapagos Islands are a protected area, and visitors must be accompanied by a licensed guide at all times. Additionally, visitors are required to follow strict guidelines to minimize their impact on the environment and to protect the fragile ecosystems of the islands.