The Birds of Galapagos: The Mockingbirds

As one of the most unique regions on the planet in terms of its wildlife, many of the birds of Galapagos are very well known. Bird lovers come from all over the world to enjoy sightings of the diverse resident and migrant species that populate the islands in huge numbers. Some, however, are lesser known.

There are four species of mockingbirds from the Mimidae family that make their home in the region, including several subspecies endemic to particular islands.

The Galapagos Mockingbird

Mimus parvulus has a wide range across the archipelago and is categorised into six subspecies: barringtoni, hulli, bauri, wenmani, personatus and parvulus. They are distributed variously around the islands of Santa Fe, Darwin, Rabida, Wolf, Fernandina, Isabela, Santa Cruz, Pinta, North Seymour and Daphne. The bird is of medium size, growing to around 25cm, with a long tail and beak. Their plumage is streaky grey and brown, with darker brown wings tipped with white. They have a white underbelly, but no malar stripe on the face like some other species.

The Hood Mockingbird

Like all the resident wildlife, the birds of Galapagos are quite inquisitive and rarely fearful of humans; however Mimus macdonaldi can actually display very aggressive behaviour, so should be treated with caution. Endemic to the island of Espanola, the species is extremely territorial and always on the lookout for food. They’re not afraid to challenge visiting tourists, even landing on their heads in many cases. The bird shares the same mottled brown plumage as other species, but its large bill and elongated tail and legs make it quite distinct.

The Charles (Floreana) Mockingbird

Mimus trifasciatus is found in small numbers on the satellite islands of Champion and Gardner-near-Floreana. They are the remaining survivors of the greater population of an original species endemic to Floreana. The species became extinct on Floreana after human settlement (along with the dogs and cats that came with them) and, although Charles Darwin documented sightings of the bird in 1835, it was gone entirely within the next 50 years. Favouring a dry or subtropical habitat, the species is now on the brink of extinction, although conservation efforts are in place to repopulate a hybrid species on Floreana.

The Chatham (or San Cristobal) Mockingbird

Mimus melanotis is endemic to San Cristobal, one of the islands hardly ever visited by tourists, so the bird is rarely seen by anyone other than scientists and researchers studying the birds of Galapagos. Its preferred habitat is the dry or subtropical forests that characterise the island and it lives in quite abundant numbers amongst the trees and cacti. It grows to around 25cm from beak to tail and its light brown plumage is offset by a white “collar”, streaks along its flanks and a black malar stripe extending down the side of its face. It has a very loud and quite tuneful call, with a range of variations amongst the species.

A Place of Diverse and Vital Avian Species

While some birds of Galapagos, like the comical Blue-footed Booby and the Waved Albatross, are much sought after, others like those mentioned above are not so high profile. But that doesn’t mean they are any less attractive or vital a part of the islands’ intriguing ecosystem.

Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Marissa chooses the expert-led itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of the birds of Galapagos along with a wide range of other wildlife in one of the most spectacular regions on Earth.

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