Galapagos Wildlife: 15 Iconic Species

Below is our guide to the 15 iconic Galapagos Wildlife Species.

Jump To: American Flamingo | Blue-Footed Booby | Flightless Cormorant | Frigatebirds: Great and Magnificent | Galapagos Fur Seal | Galapagos Giant Tortoise | Galapagos Hawk | Galapagos Penguin | Galapagos Sea Lion | Land Iguana | Marine Iguana | Nazca Booby | Red-Footed Booby | Santa Fe Land Iguana | Waved Albatross

American Flamingo

The American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is found in Central and South America, the Caribbean and also in Florida, making it the only flamingo to naturally inhabit North America. It’s also found on the Galapagos Islands where, in classic Darwinian style, it has developed a few differences from American flamingos…

Blue-Footed Booby

Blue-footed boobies are arguably the most iconic birds of the Galapagos Islands. And while they can be found along the western coasts of Central and South America, the Galapagos population accounts for around half the world’s breeding pairs, with the largest colonies on Española Island and North Seymour Island…

Flightless Cormorant

The Galapagos Islands are home to a number of strange birds, and the flightless cormorant — also known as the Galapagos cormorant — is certainly one of the strangest of them all. Of the 40 or so species of cormorant in the world, this bird, endemic to just two islands in the Galapagos archipelago, is the only one that has lost the ability to fly…

Frigatebirds: Great and Magnificent

Of the five extant species of frigatebirds, two are found on the Galapagos Islands: the great frigatebird and the magnificent frigatebird. They coexist on the archipelago and share many similarities — and just enough differences to tell them apart…

Galapagos Fur Seal

Galapagos fur seals (Arctocephalus galapagoensis) are endemic to the Galapagos Islands, and are found across most of the archipelago. They are almost as abundant as the Galapagos sea lion, but you won’t see them nearly as frequently. That’s because they tend to live along the less-visited rocky shores of the islands…

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

The Galapagos giant tortoise is a lumbering, long-living and loveable creature native to seven of the Galapagos Islands. Not only is it the largest living tortoise species, it’s also one of the longest living vertebrates in the world, with individuals having lifespans of more than 100 years in the wild (and some have lived for more than…

Galapagos Hawk

Sleek, strong and a skilled hunter, the Galapagos hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) is an apex predator endemic to the Galapagos Islands. The North American ancestors of this beautiful bird of prey are believed to have come to the Galapagos some 300,000 years ago, and it has since adapted to life on various islands…

Galapagos Penguin

Life isn’t always easy for the Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus). Measuring just 19 inches in length, it is the second smallest penguin species in the world, after the appropriately named little penguin. Being so small, it has a number of predators. In the sea, it is prey for sharks, fur seals and sea lions…

Galapagos Sea Lion

If you’re going to fall in love with one animal during your time on the Galapagos Islands, there’s a good chance it will be the Galapagos sea lion. These playful, inquisitive and highly sociable creatures are found throughout the archipelago, lounging around on beaches (and sometimes on public benches) and swimming…

Land Iguana

The land iguana is one of the most iconic species of the Galapagos Islands, with between 5,000 and 10,000 individuals living on the archipelago. Endemic to the Galapagos, they are not found in the wild in any other part of the world. Today, most visitors can’t wait to see a land iguana. But the archipelago’s most notable early visitor…

Marine Iguana

Early visitors to the Galapagos Islands were far from impressed by the appearance of the marine iguana, a thickset reptile with short but strong limbs and spines along its back and tail. In 1798, Captain James Colnett of the British Royal Navy called them “small, and of a sooty black, which, if possible, heightens their native ugliness…

Nazca Booby

Of the six different species of boobies in the world, none have had such an identity crisis as the Nazca booby. During his trip to the Galapagos Islands in 1897, the British banker, politician and zoologist Walter Rothschild identified the bird as the Peruvian booby (Sula variegata), which lives along the Peruvian coast…

Red-Footed Booby

Red-footed boobies are found across the tropical regions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, particularly on islands. The Galapagos archipelago, therefore, provides an ideal home for these birds, which are the smallest of all the booby species. As well as being comparatively small – about 70 cm in length — red-footed boobies are…

Santa Fe Land Iguana

The Santa Fe land iguana (Conolophus pallidus) is endemic to just one island in the Galapagos archipelago: the 9.2-square-mile Santa Fe Island. The entire global population of around 7,000 Santa Fe land iguanas lives on this single, small volcanic island, one of the oldest and most centrally located in the archipelago…

Waved Albatross

The waved albatross, also known as the Galapagos albatross, is the largest bird in the Galapagos Islands, with a wingspan of up to 8.2 feet. Outside of the breeding season, waved albatrosses spend much of their time off the coast of Peru and Ecuador, but can also be seen flying near the Galapagos Islands. During the breeding season…

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