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.
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!