Galapagos Hawk Is The New King Of Galapagos Wildlife

 

Galapagos Hawk Is The New King Of Galapagos Wildlife

This galapagos hawk is the king of the galapagos wildlife and is a rare bird with around 150 breeding pairs left. In fact the only chance of seeing this beautiful bird is to visit the galapagos islands. As it has been marooned on this island for over 300,000 years!

Galapagos Bird Facts:

  • Overall length: 55cm
  • Wing Span: 120cm
  • Breeding: Polyandry mating (Females mate with up to 4 males!)

Description and Habitat

As mentioned before, this hawk is the prime predator with no natural enemies among other galapagos birds and animals. The video below is an example of a duel in which galapagos hawks demonstrate their prowess over other galapagos island predators!

As the bird transforms from a juvenile to an adult it undergoes a complete colour change. When young, the bird is a light brown colour with certain belly plumage turning almost white. On top of this, a juvenile has light hazel eyes. (they can look quite adorable)

However, when an adult the bird becomes a predator and now longer needs its camouflage. Its feathers become a dark chocolate brown and with the crown or head of the bird being a shade or two darker. Its eyes also undergo a similar change and become almost black.

The tail is silvery grey with numerous black streaks. However, on the under side of the tail the plumage can remain quite white. The wing feathers are whiter on the inner webs.

Diet, Prey and Hunting

This galapagos bird shares the unusual characteristic of the Harris Hawk as it hunts in groups of up to three. Seeing as it is already the only "real" predator within the whole chain of the galapagos this makes the bird almost overly successful.

It is a confident, cocky bird and as Charles Darwin wrote when visiting the islands in 1845 "A gun is here almost superfluous; for with the muzzle I pushed a hawk out of the branch of a tree.."

Although many other birds of prey are supposed to be fearless, such as the eagle especially the golden eagle. No other hawk is known to be as fearless as the galapagos hawk and this contributes to its wide healthy diet. This predator regularly likes to sample different species among the islands. Some of its favorites are...

Prey Species Include:

  • Locusts
  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • Iguanas (Land and Marine)
  • Rodents
  • Giant Centipedes
  • Turtle and Tortoise hatchlings
  • Other Swallow tailed Gulls and Carrion
  • Eggs

When hunting in groups they are able to soar up to 200 meters in the air, using just island updrafts (their broad tails and wings greatly aid them float for hours on end)

Within the group there is always one dominant bird (female) that will select the prey and eat first. Once eating, the rest of the squad must sit and wait for her to finnish before they may start their meal.

Breeding and Nests

The galapagos hawk has a rare polyandrous breeding technique. Which literally means one female to many males. In fact it is so rare that only one percent of the entire population of birds shares this method of breeding and only around 6 raptors. The Harris hawk is another bird that practices simultaneous polyandry.

This method enables the female to hop around several different nests, laying eggs and ensuring a higher hatching rate.

The galapagos islands are located very close to the equator. This means that the islands seasons have very little temperature change which enables the galapagos hawk to mate continuously throughout the year.

It starts by a stunning show of aerobatic excellence from the male. He shows off what he's got by dive-bombing the female. If impressed the female galapagos hawk will flutter down to a tree and the male will follow to close the deal.

Another point that is worth mentioning is that they mate on very low branches. This is another sign of their fearlessness and confidence as top bird.

Nests

Unlike some other birds, the galapagos hawk uses the same nests every year. While the female is polyandrous, the male remains monogynous and will spend much time incubating and building the nest.

Both birds make sure fresh grass, twigs, and moss are constantly being added to the nest. Thus, after four years of constant adding snippets, the nests can grow to impressive sizes of more than four feet.

Next, the females lay around 3 white/greenish eggs in the nest and after 38 days of incubation one chick will hatch and be reared. Unfortunately, the other two usually do not survive.

This fortunate chick, will stay in the nest for 2 more months to make sure it is fully fledged before heading out into the non-territorial areas of the island.

He or she will have to stay clear of the "good land" for another couple of years before he or she is strong enough to fight for it.