Darwin’s Finches

And so we come to the world-famous Darwin’s finches – yes, these are the finches that have been studied endlessly to help understand evolutionary process. Like all wildlife on the Galapagos, the ancestors of these finches arrived here millions of years ago, and they have evolved into 13 different species (or more, depending on who you ask…)

They have evolved in ways that adapt them to the various different environments found on the islands, and to eat certain foods that are found there – but they are still very similar to each other! There are more obvious physical differences between some of them than the mockingbirds – but they are still VERY difficult to tell apart. The main ways of identifying them are by their beaks, by what type of vegetation they are in, and by what they are eating when you see them (bad luck if they are not eating anything or they are eating crumbs left by humans….)

Quite a lot of the different species live on mutliple islands of the Galapagos – so unlike the mockingbirds and lava lizards you can’t get an easy identification just by which island you saw the finch on. Here is a handy identification guide for the finches.

The reality was that we were NEVER going to be able to identify any of these finches… one of the guides that we had told us that he can’t tell them all apart, and that he only knows one guide that can identify them (after about 20 years…..)

So, our strategy…. take tons of pictures of finches on various islands in various types of habitat, and then post them up on a bird identification internet forum to see if there are some experts out there who can ID any of them from our photos… 🙂 Yes, that’s NOT CHEATING….

In the end, it turned out that even experts on a bird forum can’t always work out what they are….??! Out of all the people on the forum, there was only one person who put an identity to some of the finches – and even they used the word ‘probably’ quite a lot…..

Just in case you are wondering why some of the finches are black, and some of them are not…. with most of the finches, the males are black, and the females are not – still doesn’t help with identification though!

So… here are some identified Galapagos finches…

Grey warbler finch – San Cristóbal.
Medium ground finch – San Cristóbal.
Woodpecker finch (probably) – San Cristóbal.
Common cactus finch – Santa Cruz.
Small tree finch – Santa Cruz.
Small ground finch – Santa Cruz.

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