GALÁPAGOS NATIONAL PARK 00o57´S/89o36´W (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno), 766,514ha, 0-1,707m (Wolf Volcano, Isabela) mostly 0-600m, littoral zones (mangroves, beaches and lagoons), arid deciduous shrub and woodlands, deciduous forest and montane evergreen forest, pampas and 2 natural fresh water lagoons (both on San Cristóbal) 

GALÁPAGOS MARINE RESERVE c.00o00´S/90o00´W, 7,990,000ha (all interior waters and waters to 40km radius from centre) 0 to –3,000+m reefs to deep oceans (sw), a mix of currents: cold Equatorial Undercurrents to the w the North Equatorial Current (Panama Current) and South Equatorial Current (Humboldt Current) to se 

National Park, Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site 

Entry fee to national park is $100 paid on arrival (to the Galápagos National Park Service, who have 60 wardens) 

Best time to visit October to February

Birding Site Guide

Probably the number one ecotourist destination in the world. Everyone has heard of them and their link with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, even if many people are not entirely sure where they are or what exactly Darwin’s theory is. The islands are an archipelago group of volcanic oceanic (not part of the continental shelf) of 13 main (over 10 square km each), 6 smaller and at least 40 minor islands and islets lying around 1,000km off the w coast of Ecuador, South America (to whom they belong). They lie on the equator, though most of the main islands are immediately south of it, the equator running through the n tip of Isabela only. The 13 largest islands in descending order (with alternative and old English names in brackets) are Isabela (Albemarle), Santa Cruz (Indefatigable), Fernandina (Narborough), Santiago (San Salvador or James), San Cristóbal (Chatham), Santa Maria (Floreana or Charles), Marchena (Bindloes), Española (Hood), Pinta (Abingdon), Santa Fé (Barrington), Baltra, Pinzón, Genovesa (Douwes or Tower). Away to the n of the main archipelago are the tiny islands of Teodoro Wolf (Wenman) and Charles Darwin (Culpepper). 

The hot season is from December to June, when skies are clear and se trade winds are not so strong, there are also heavy rains, the rest of the year from June to December is known as the Garúa Season (mist season), when there are strong to very strong se trade winds, skies are overcast and the air is cold. There are thick mists low areas and rain in the se highlands. In El Niño years water and land temperatures and rainfall are higher. 

To get to the archipelago, it is possible to fly (with Tame or Aerogal airlines, expect to pay up to $400) to Baltra, from where it is possible to take a cheap short ferry across the Itabaca Canal to Santa Cruz. It is also possible to fly to San Cristóbal Island. If time permits though most people take a cruise to the islands and these can be booked at any travel agent. For contact details of Mindo Bird Tours, see below. 

Santa Cruz with a population of c.10,000 is where most people live, and is well equipped to cater to tourists needs. The famous Charles Darwin Research Station is located in the island’s capital of Puerto Ayora. The capital for the archipelago is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island. 

There are 22 endemic land birds (Galapagos Heron is not recognised by Clements but the Galapagos Martin is), with a further 5 endemic breeding seabirds, additionally there are 2 near-endemic breeding sea birds: Waved Albatross which also breeds on Isla de la Plata and White-vented Storm-Petrel which breeds on Chungungo Island. There are also many endemic subspecies. Of the land birds, 13 comprise the Geospizini group or famous Darwin Finches, with a 14th only found on the Cocos Islands. Most species, not just birds, do not occur on all main islands, though many occur on 3 or more, therefore visiting a selection of islands is a must. A few birds only occur on one island each, these are San Cristóbal Mockingbird on San Cristóbal, Hood Mockingbird on Española and Medium Tree-Finch on Santa Maria and Charles Mockingbird on its 2 islets (formerly also on Santa Maria). 

If not seen at sea, the breeding island for the albatross is Española, and for Swallow-tailed Gull Genovesa, Baltra and n Santa Cruz, the heron is best sought on Santiago. Other birds of interest are Red-footed Boobies (Genovesa), Blue-footed Boobies (Baltra and Española) and Masked Boobies (Genovesa and Santa Maria), Magnificent and Great Frigatebirds (Genovesa and San Cristóbal) and the penguins around n Isabela, Fernandina and Santiago. 

Giant tortoises occur on several islands depending on sub-species, 2 varieties are extinct (from Fernandina, Santa Maria and Santa Fé) and only 1 of another sub-species remains (Lonesome George of Pinta Island). Four species of marine turtles occur though only the Pacific Green Turtle is resident. Marine Iguanas occur on the 4 largest islands and Land Iguanas on Isabela. Cetaceans can be watched at Urbina and Elizabeth Bays on the w coast of Isabela and Sea Lions are common. Hammerhead Sharks seasonally congregate around Genovesa, White-tipped Sharks can be observed at Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island and other sharks can be seen around Kicker Rock off San Cristóbal Island. The only natural freshwater lagoons are El Junco, which is up to 16m deep and La Poza Colorada which is less than 1m deep, and there is also a deep reservoir called La Toma at higher altitude all on San Cristóbal Island. Several areas offer good snorkelling particularly around Rabida (or Jervis) Island located in the centre of the archipelago, and also around Santa Maria. 

Number of species: of birds 141, reptiles 22 (20 endemic), 10 native land mammals (of which 4 species of rice rats are now extinct) and 2 bats, 306 fish (51 endemic). Over 2000 arthropods and 600 plants. 

Mindo Bird Tours 

GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS Biome Endemics and Near-Endemics List 

This BENES list contains all species endemic to or difficult to find outside of this ecoregion. 

Altitude range m 


  • Galapagos Penguin Spheniscus mendiculus A, C & Bartolomé
  • Waved Albatross Diomedea irrorata H
  • Galapagos Petrel Pterodroma phaeopygia B, D, E, F
  • White-vented Storm-Petrel Oceanites gracilis at sea
  • Flightless Cormorant Phalacrocorax harrisi A, C
  • [Galapagos Heron Butorides sundevalli] all islands
  • Galapagos Hawk Buteo galapagoensis all islands except E, G, N, M, O
  • Galapagos Rail Laterallus spilonotus A, B, C, D, E, I
  • Lava Gull Larus fuliginosus A, B, E
  • Swallow-tailed Gull Creagrus furcatus all islands except C
  • Galapagos Dove Zenaida galapagoensis all islands
  • Galapagos Flycatcher Myiarchus magnirostris all islands except M, N, O
  • Galapagos Martin Progne modesta all islands except G, I, M, N, O & Rábida
  • Galapagos Mockingbird Nesomimus parvulus all islands except E, F, H, L
  • Charles Mockingbird Nesomimus trifasciatus islets off F: Champion & its Gardner
  • Hood Mockingbird Nesomimus macdonaldi H & its Gardner
  • San Cristobal Mockingbird Nesomimus melanotis E
  • Large Ground-Finch Geospiza magnirostris all islands except H & Daphne
  • Medium Ground-Finch Geospiza fortis all islands except H, M, N, O
  • Small Ground-Finch Geospiza fuliginosa all islands except M, N, O
  • Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch Geospiza difficilis C,D, I, M, N, O
  • Common Cactus-Finch Geospiza scandens all islands except C, L, M, N, O
  • Large Cactus-Finch Geospiza conirostris H & its Gardner, M
  • Vegetarian Finch Camarhynchus crassirostris all islands except H, J, K, M, N, O
  • Mangrove Finch Camarhynchus heliobates A
  • Large Tree-Finch Camarhynchus psittacula all islands except H, M, N, O
  • Small Tree-Finch Camarhynchus parvulus all islands except G, H, M, N, O
  • Medium Tree-Finch Camarhynchus pauper F
  • Woodpecker Finch Camarhynchus pallidus A, B, C, D, E, L
  • Warbler Finch Certhidea olivacea all islands except Daphne 

  • [] not recognised by JFC

  • ISLANDS' codes (lesser islands names given) all islands means all below
  • size order, largest first
  • A Isabela (Albemarle)
  • B Santa Cruz (Indefatigable)
  • C Fernandina (Narborough)
  • D Santiago (San Salvador or James)
  • E San Cristóbal (Chatham)
  • F Santa Maria (Floreana or Charles)
  • G Marchena (Bindloes)
  • H Española (Hood)
  • I Pinta (Abingdon)
  • J Santa Fé (Barrington)
  • K Baltra
  • L Pinzón
  • M Genovesa (Douwes or Tower)
  • N Teodoro Wolf (Wenman)
  • O Charles Darwin (Culpepper)
  • Bartolomé
  • Champion
  • Daphne
  • Rábida
  • Gardner off Española
  • Gardner off Santa Maria
  • North Seymour
  • Plazas

References (see Reference Used By BSG list for full titles) 

  • BirdLife International
  • Castro, I. (1996)
  • Clements, J.F. (2000)
  • Ridgely, R.S. & Greenfield, P.J. (2001)

Contacts (and further references) 

Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galápagos Islands (who run the Charles Darwin Research Station) 

Ecuador Ministry of Tourism 

Author: BSG