Buteo Galapagoensis

Environment and Physical characteristics:

The adult Galapagos Hawk is the top dog in the natural food chain of the archipelago, and is found on the Isabela, Espanola, Santiago, Fernandina, Pinta, Santa Fe, Marchena, and Santa Cruz Islands. The average length of a female is about 60 centimeters, males tend to be a couple of inches shorter*, and wingspans range from 115-125 centimeters. Its color is mostly dark brown to black, although juveniles are pale breasted and have dark brown spots. The darker the bird, the closer to maturity it is. In an adult the only remaining light feathers are featured on its tail, which alternates between light and dark grey. The talons and bill are yellow, although the tip of the bill is dark.


As skilled at hunting and as sharp of eye as any other bird of prey, Galapagos Hawks feed on lizards, rats, doves, centipedes, Audubon's Shearwaters, land and marine iguanas, small goats(!), boobies, and grasshoppers. But they are not an overproud bunch - they will also eat the dead flesh of any animal they happen to find, with the exceptions of marine iguanas, seals and sea lions (due to their tough flesh). They are not above begging either, and will often follow fishing boats in the hope of obtaining scraps. In fact, these birds are so unafraid of humans that Charles Darwin noted that "a gun here is almost superfluous; for with the muzzle I pushed a hawk out of the branch of a tree." This is due to the fact that Buteo Galapagoensis evolved with no natural predators, and some have even been pet by people.

Sexual Habits (the fun part):

Males tend to be monogamous. But females are known to take up to seven mates during each breeding season. During flight, the male will follow above and slightly behind the female, and will fake an attack by dive bombing her. She then descends to tree level and lands on one of the higher branches, where they proceed to get it on, making "peculiar clucking noises." The female and her harem then take turns at nest duty, incubating eggs, feeding chicks and defending the area. Those not on duty are responsible for hunting for the entire group.


The exact number of these birds is unknown, but population figures seem to have rebounded somewhat since 1971, when only about 400 existed. Today there are about 250 on Santiago Island alone. However the numbers are a far cry from the 1930s, when they were a common sight on all of the Galapagos Islands. This is attributed to four reasons: human disturbance of the environment, dwindling food supply due to introduced predators, predation by humans, and predation by feral cats. Galapagos Hawks are extinct on Floreana, San Cristobal, Seymour, Daphne, and Baltra islands.

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