Darwin Finches

The world's famous Darwin Finches

The popularity of the Galapagos Islands can be attributed to these tiny creatures also known as the Galapagos finches. They are eager to greet visitors in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Darwin finches are endemic to the Galapagos Islands and have made it their home for over 3 to 5 million years!

There are around 14 species of finches originating from the same ancestry. Their closest relatives are the Tanagers. The different species of finches vary in shape and size depending on their diet and environment, which is one of the major findings which supported Darwin’s theory of evolution. The finches are usually around 15cm large.

Darwin Finch in the Galapagos Islands

There are around 14 different species of Darwin finches

  • Ground finches (Geospiza)
    • Large ground finch (Geospiza magnirostris)
    • Medium ground finch (Geospiza fortis)
    • Small ground finch (Geospiza fuliginosa)
    • Sharp-beaked ground finch (Geospiza difficilis)
    • Cactus ground finch (Geospiza scandens)
    • Opuntia ground finch (Geospiza conirostris)
  • Tree finches (Camarhynchus)
    • Thick-beaked Darwin finch (Camarhynchus crassirostris)
    • Mangrove Darwin finch (Camarhynchus heliobates)
    • Parrot beaked-Darwin finch (Camarhynchus psittacula)
    • Small tree Darwin finch (Camarhynchus parvulus)
    • Small-beaked Darwin finch (Camarhynchus pauper)
    • Woodpecker finch (Camarhynchus pallidus)
  • Certhidea
    • Green warbler-finch (Certhidea olivacea)
  • Pinaroloxias
    • Cocos finch (Pinaroloxias inornata)

To plan your trip better, check out our Galapagos Islands monthly animal activities poster.

Black Darwin finch sitting on a branch in the Galapagos Islands

Habitat and Habits

The type of vegetation on individual islands determine the way the Darwin finches evolve. Ground Finches (genus Geospiza) feed on food found on the ground while Tree Finches (genus Camarhynchus) find food in trees and shrubs. Therefore, grain-eating fiches tend to have thick and chunky bills while insect-eating finches often have narrow and pointed beaks.

Far north in the Galapagos archipelago on Wolf Island, the medium ground finches with sharp beaks have developed a unique taste where they sometimes feed on the blood of the boobies there. That is why they are also called the vampire finches. On Isabela Island you can observe Darwin finches sitting on marine iguanas while drinking their saliva, that is quite a sight indeed.

The Darwin finches breed during the warmer season between January and May. Their nests are usually circular in shape and they lay between three to five eggs. After the breeding season, the finches often group together to roam around the Galapagos archipelago.

Species Protection 

The Darwin finches have been threatened by the introduction of nest parasites in recent years. Parasites (Philornis downsi) lay their eggs in the finches’ nest and the hatched larvae feed on the chicks and mothers’ blood, resulting in premature death of the chicks. This has caused the Darwin finches population to shrink. The Charles Darwin Foundation, as well as the Swiss Association of friends of the Galápagos Islands, are currently working together to combat this issue.


Travel advice for visitors:

The Darwin finches can be found in almost every island and do not be surprised if they enjoy checking out your camera lens!

Galapagos Islands endemic brown Darwin finch searches for food

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