With an apology to our birder friends who have taken stunning pictures of birds from around the world, we have to be honest: we’ve never quite seen the appeal of birding. In most of our experience, seeing amazing birds means having to stand very, very quietly for long periods and then break out some sort of high-powered viewing equipment, like a scope or long camera lens on a tripod, to get a fleeting glimpse. It just doesn’t seem worth the effort. Kind of reminds me of eating artichokes (but that’s another story).
It’s oh-so-different in the Galapagos. Like most of the other wildlife there, many of the birds do not view humans as predators. Not only are they willing to let you get very close, but they’re carrying on an incredible array of mating, nesting, feeding, and preening behaviors right before your eyes. It’s enough to turn even the most hard-core birding skeptic into a true believer.
On our recent trip to the Galapagos, we were especially taken with three bird species:
There are three varieties to be found in the Galapagos, and we saw two of them – the ever popular blue-footed boobies and the tuxedo-striped Nazca boobies. We’ve seen BFBs before, on an island off the Mexican Pacific coast, but these are are subspecies endemic to the Galapagos. The Nazcas are pretty widespread.
The Waved Albatross
Albatross are the largest of the sea birds, and they’re so heavy and ungainly that getting airborne takes some work. But once they’re in the air, they’re poetry in motion. On Española Island, we watched them get a running start and take off from a 100-foot cliff, and then ride the thermals higher and higher. With wing spans up to eight feet (!) they can just glide, and rarely have to flap their wings. They were a sight to behold.
The Magnificent Frigatebirds
Yes, they were magnificent, but that really is the name given to the subspecies that’s endemic to the Galapagos.Not only did the magnificent frigates put on an aerial show when we were underway one late afternoon, dipping and soaring off the bow of our boat, but we were treated to a fantastic display of their nesting and mating behaviors on North Seymour Island.
With apologies again to true birders who have taken much better pictures, with better equipment – here are our favorite bird shots from the Galapagos.