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Marine iguana | © Vibeke Johannessen / The Viking Abroad
Marine iguana | © Vibeke Johannessen / The Viking Abroad
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11 Awesome Native Animals You Can Only Find in the Galapagos Islands

Picture of Vibeke Johannessen
Updated: 13 October 2017
The Galapagos Islands are known for their unique array of wildlife, and they are home to many species that are not found in any other place in the world. The islands offer you the chance to see many fascinating species of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Here are 11 awesome native animals you can find only here.

Galapagos Tortoises

The Galapagos tortoises are one of the longest-lived species in the world; they can live to be over 150 years old. They can be recognised by their incredibly large size and slow movements. They can mate at any time of the year, and the eggs usually hatch between April and December.

Galapagos tortoises
Galapagos tortoises | © Vibeke Johannessen / The Viking Abroad

Darwin’s Finches

These birds are named after Charles Darwin, who discovered them on his second voyage to the islands. There are 13 subspecies of finches recorded on the Galapagos Islands, and Darwin found out that they were different from island to island, as they had adapted to each different environment.

Medium ground finch, Santa Cruz
Medium ground finch, Santa Cruz | © putneymark /Flickr

Galapagos Fur Seals

The Galapagos fur seal is smaller than a sea lion, with thicker fur, a pointier nose and a broader head. The fur seal is also a lot less vocal than the sea lion. The Galapagos fur seals live in large colonies on rocky shores; their population is in decline after many of them were killed for their fur in the 1800s.

Fur seal on Santiago Island in the Galapagos Islands
Fur seal on Santiago Island in the Galapagos Islands | ©John Solaro / Flickr

Marine Iguanas

Marine iguanas can be seen almost anywhere in the Galapagos Islands. They are good swimmers, and if you go snorkelling or diving around the seashore, you might find them swimming with you. They like to lie in the sun on the rocks to warm up after swimming in the cold water. Scientists believe that iguanas from South America drifted out to the sea millions of years ago, landed on the Galapagos Islands and evolved into marine iguanas.

Marine iguana
Marine iguana | © Vibeke Johannessen / The Viking Abroad

Flightless Cormorants

Flightless cormorants, of course, cannot fly, and this is the only cormorant with this characteristic. Their wings are only one-third of their body size, which makes it impossible for them to fly. However, they are great swimmers, and can dive deep into the water, where they hunt for octopus and eels. They live only on the Isabela and Fernandina islands, and their numbers are now increasing as a result of successful conservation work.

Flightless cormorant
Flightless cormorant | ©Brian Gratwicke / Flickr

Large Painted Locusts

These colourful locusts are an important part of the food chain in the Galapagos Islands, and are eaten in particular by Galapagos hawks and lava lizards, which are also endemic to the Galapagos Islands. The locusts can be seen on all the islands except Española. They can jump a very long way, and they love staying in humid forests. The best time to spot them is during the rainy season.

Galapagos Penguins

You can find the second-smallest penguin in the world in the Galapagos Islands, the smallest being the little penguin that lives on Phillip Island in Australia. The Galapagos penguins are the only penguins you can see north of the equator, and they are also the only species without a specific breeding season. The Galapagos penguins pant like dogs when they are hot; they love soaking up the sun on rocky cliffs and jumping into the ocean when it gets too hot. They always keep an eye out for predators, but the biggest threats to their numbers are climate change and oil pollution.

Galapagos penguins
Galapagos penguins | ©zpics /Flickr

Galapagos Mockingbirds

Galapagos mockingbirds mainly hunt on foot, instead of flying. They can be found on most of the islands in the Galapagos, except for San Cristobal, Española and Floreana, which have their are own species of mockingbirds that are adapted to life on those islands. Charles Darwin studies these mockingbirds closely to find out how they had evolved to adapt to their environments.

Back from the brink: The Floreana Mockingbird | © Andy Duckworth / Vimeo

Lava Lizards

These lizards can be identified by their small size, pointy heads and long tails. Both females and males are quite territorial and protect their territory from intruders. The males are more aggressive and larger than the females. Lava lizards will change colour if they feel threatened or if there are changes in temperature. If their tail is attacked, they can drop it and grow a new one. Lava Lizards live in large groups in dry areas, usually on top of lava, where they tend to adapt to the colour of the lava.

Female lava lizard
Female lava lizard | ©Brian Gratwicke / Flickr

Galapagos Flamingos

Galapagos flamingos can be recognised by their bright and rich pink colour. They get this colour as a result of their diet of crustaceans, which include a pigment that causes the bright pink colour. The Galapagos flamingos usually stand on one leg, which is their resting position. They can be spotted on the islands Isabela, Rabida, Santiago and Floreana.

Galapagos flamingos
Galapagos flamingos | © Vibeke Johannessen / The Viking Abroad

Galapagos Hawks

Galapagos hawks are seen on many islands of the Galapagos, but their population is dwindling. They are colourblind but otherwise have incredibly good vision. They are very important to the food chain, and are on top, where they have nothing to fear! They mainly survive by eating lava lizards, rodents and snakes.

Galapagos hawk
Galapagos hawk | © Steven Bedardl/Flickr