Monday, August 22, 2011

Familiar or Almost Familiar?

Yellow Warblers
"One of the most attractive features of birdwatching in the Galapagos Islands," my field guide, Wildlife of the Galapagos, begins, "is that you can identify most species without being expert. There are only about 60 resident species, and 13 of these are the finches!"  Well, that's certainly good news!  I expected to find only strange and exotic species on our trip, to tell the truth. What the field guide doesn't come right out and say though, is that some of the familiar birds will also count towards your life list, since they are endemic subspecies living only in the Galapagos. Take the Yellow Warblers we saw as soon as we de-planed in Baltra. Its Latin name is Dendroica petechia aureola. I usually pay little or no attention to Latin names, but I'll have to double check them here.
Galapagos Flycatcher
Admittedly, I can't tell any of the Flycatchers apart, but certainly didn't realize this little guy is the Galapagos Flycatcher, Myiarchus magnirostris. Yeah, I know, almost every species there is named Galapagos, or Lava or Darwin, but there is a reason for it after all.

Lava Heron
In most light, the Lava Heron (Butorides striata sundivalli) looks pretty much like a Green Heron, but when the sunset creeps across the black lava along the water's edge, you can see this is a different bird.

Great Blue Heron
I thought this Great Blue Heron would be just a Great Blue Heron like we have in Kentucky, and so it is - Ardea herodias, and the Great Egret is still Ardea alba. The Yellow Heron is the same and the many shore birds - sandpipers, plovers, turnstones, whimbrels, stilts and oyster catchers.  Good thing you can count on some things to remain the same.

Great Flamingo
I thought surely this bright Flamingo would be some sort of subspecies, but find that it is in fact, Phoenicopterus ruber, or Greater Flamingo, not one of the subspecies listed by Sibley. But I've never taken a photo of one flying before, and wanted to include it. 
Galapagos Dove
There are plenty of doves in Kentucky, but this one is clearly different. Just look at the china blue eye ring! (Remember to click on any photo to enlarge it.) The Galapagos Dove (Zenaida galapagoensis) scratches in the dirt like a quail would here. Charles Darwin was able to kill one for the stewpot by throwing his hat at it! When we arrived in Quito, however, we saw lots of Eared Doves (Zenaida auriculata) which lacked the eye ring of this endemic species.

Galapagos Mockingbird
Kentucky has lots of Northern Mockingbirds, but the Galapagos have four different species of endemic Mockingbirds, just the opposite of what I would have expected, had I thought about it at all. The Galapagos Mockingbird (Nesomimus parvulus) itself has six different subspecies restricted to specific islands. This one was found on Santa Cruz. They eat almost anything and are excellent mimics.
Hood Mockingbird
This Hood Mockingbird (Nesomims Macdonaldi) is found only on Espanola, and it has adopted some strange behaviors. Our guide warned us that we would be approached by Hood Mockingbirds on the beach, panhandling for water, since this is one of the islands with no source of fresh water. They have come up with an adaptation for this problem by turning vampire!  This bird pecked on the tail of a marine iguana until it bled, then drank its blood!  Not exactly fresh water, but probably less salty than the sea water.

They tend to gather in groups, vigorously defending their territories, and Kevin got a video of them fighting a gang war over some beach art they created on a different trip. Ain't travel great!


Mary Howell Cromer said...

Could you please bring us back one of those Galapagos Doves...oh is that a gorgeous bird!

Kathiesbirds said...

Wow! so now I know where you are! what a great trip. Had no idea about all those subspecies and a vampire Mockingbird? wow!