Map of the world

  • Where to watch BIRDS and

  • other wildlife in the world
  • Photograph of Marine Iguana

    Marine Iguana by Chris Townend.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in

    Photograph of Swallow-tailed Gull

    Swallow-tailed Gulls by Simon Colenutt.

    Photograph of Swallow-tailed Gull

    Photograph of Giant Tortoise

    Giant Tortoise with a Cattle Egret on Santa Cruz by Simon Colenutt.

    Best Birds and other wildlife in the Galapagos Islands


    Endemics 31
    (A penguin, four mockingbirds and 17 finches)
    Galapagos Dove, Galapagos Rail, Galapagos Penguin, Lava (Green) Heron, Flightless Cormorant, Lava Gull, Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Flycatcher, Darwin’s (Galapagos Vermilion) Flycatcher, Galapagos Martin, Floreana Mockingbird, Galapagos Mockingbird, Espanola Mockingbird, San Cristobal Mockingbird, Grey Warbler-finch, Green Warbler-finch, Vegetarian Finch, Sharp-beaked Ground-finch, Large Tree-finch, Medium Tree-finch (Floreana), Small Tree-finch, Mangrove Finch (Isabela), Woodpecker Finch, Vampire Ground-finch (Darwin and Wolf), Small Ground-finch, Medium Ground-finch, Genovesa Ground-finch, Large Ground-finch, Espanola Cactus-finch, Common Cactus-finch and Genovesa Cactus-finch.

    (Waved Albatross nests (April to December) on Espanola Island in the Galapagos and Isla de la Plata (a few pairs only) off Ecuador, and ranges at sea to the Humboldt Current off Ecuador and Peru, sometimes Chile. Swallow-tailed Gull nests all year round on Galapagos and Mapelo Island (in small numbers) off Colombia, and ranges at sea from Colombia to Peru, rarely to central Chile)

    American Flamingo, Red-billed Tropicbird, Blue-footed, Red-footed and Nazca Boobies, Magnificent and Great (mostly Apr-Sep) Frigatebirds, White-cheeked Pintail, Galapagos (Dark-rumped) Petrel, Galapagos (Audubon's) Shearwater, Elliot's, Band-rumped (Madeiran), Markham's, Wedge-rumped and White-vented Storm-petrels, Brown Pelican, Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Purple Gallinule, Black-necked Stilt, Wandering Tattler, Brown Noddy, Smooth-billed Ani, (Galapagos) Barn and (Galapagos) Short-eared Owls, (Galapagos) Vermilion Flycatcher and (Mangrove) Yellow Warbler. Also a chance of White-faced Storm-petrel, Paint-billed Crake, Sooty Tern (nests only on Darwin Island, a long way north of the main archipelago, and seen infrequently elsewhere) and Dark-billed Cuckoo.

    Bottlenose Dolphin, California Sealion (usual pupping season is Aug-Nov) and Galapagos Fur Seal. Also a chance of Common Dolphin, and Bryde's, Killer and Sperm Whales, and an outside chance of Fraser's, Long-snouted Spinner, Pantropical Spotted, Risso's and Striped Dolphins, and Blue, Blainville's Beaked, Cuvier's Beaked, Dwarf Sperm, Humpback (mostly June), Fin, Melon-headed, Minke, False Killer, Pygmy Killer, Pygmy Sperm, Short-finned Pilot and Sei Whales (all whales mostly May-Nov).

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    Giant Tortoise, Marine and Land Iguanas, (Pacific) Green Turtle (females come ashore to lay eggs Dec-Jun mostly Jan-Mar especially February, hatchlings mostly Apr-May), and Whale (Jun-Nov, mostly May-Aug, when pregnant females gather around Darwin Island), (Scalloped) Hammerhead (mostly July) and White-tipped Reef Sharks. Also a chance of Manta Ray, Golden and Spotted Eagle Rays, and Hawksbill, Leatherback and Olive Ridley Turtles.

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in the Galapagos Islands

    Photograph of Waved Albatross

    Waved Albatross by Lee Dingain.

    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in the Galapagos Islands

    Two bird species, Waved Albatross and Great Frigatebird, usually nest only from April to September, and the best time to see these, as well as Blue-footed Booby, displaying at their colonies is usually May to July, especially May-June, but the peak time for turtles laying their eggs on the beaches is January to March, especially January, with the hatchlings usually appearing in April-May. The best time for snorkelling/swimming with fish, penguins, sealions and turtles is the slightly wetter season between December and May when the waters are warmer, clearer and calmer, and the weather hotter and more humid, with the chance of showers. June to November is usually the driest, coolest and least humid time of the year but it can be misty at this time and the sea cooler, murkier and choppier.

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for the Galapagos Islands

    Collins Traveller's Guide: Wildlife of Galapagos by J and D Fitter. William Collins/PUP, 2016 (Revised Second Edition).

    Travellers' Wildlife Guides: Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands by D Pearson and L Beletsky. Interlink Books, 2013.

    Bradt Wildlife Guide: Galapagos Wildlife by D Horwell and P Oxford. Bradt, 2011 (Third Edition).

    Watching Wildlife: Galapagos Islands by D Andrew. Lonely Planet, 2005.

    Birds, Mammals and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands by A Swash and R Still. Helm, 2005 (Second Edition).

    Reef Fish Identification: Galapagos by P Humann and N Deloach. New World Publications, 2003 (Second Edition).

    Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin. Originally published in 1839 and reprinted many times since.

    Where to watch birds in South America by N Wheatley. Helm, 1994.

    Don’t know which country/countries to visit in South America? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them on the continent, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for the Galapagos Islands

    Many trip reports, some for Galapagos, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Galapagos. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Galapagos' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in the Galapagos Islands

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation for birders in the Galapagos Islands

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to the Galapagos Islands

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Galapagos include the following.