Galapagos Hawk

Monday, 20 March 2017

(Information from the Silversea publication): This endemic hawk is the only raptor that breeds in the islands. It is found in all habitats – shoreline, bare lava-fields, open lands, rocky areas, scrub country, deciduous forests, and mountain peaks.

This hawk is an apex (top) predator, feeding on a wide variety of birds, rats, lava lizards, snakes, iguanas, tortoise, and sea turtle hatchlings, and insects (locusts and giant centipedes.) They hunt in small groups of two or three, soaring 150 to 650 feet in the sky and using their excellent vision to spot prey.

When people first arrived at the islands, Galapagos Hawks were abundant. They had no natural enemies and were the top predator in the islands, so they were fearless of man, especially the young hawks. Early accounts recall how these birds wandered around the sailors' camps scavenging for food scraps. Unfortunately they became a common food source for the sailors and huge numbers were hunted.

In 1845, Charles Darwin wrote, “A gun is here almost superfluous for with the muzzle I pushed a hawk out of the branch of a tree…”

Galapagos Hawks' numbers have decreased greatly over the past few hundred years, partially because of overhunting, but also due to habitat loss and dwindling food supply. They are now extinct on five of the Galapagos islands. Today, only small numbers are found on eight islands (Santiago, Isabela, Santa Fe, Pinta, Expanola, Fernandina, Marchena, Pinzon.)

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