Galapagos Hawks

August 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Galapagos Hawks can be found throughout the archipelago.  These hawks similar in size to Red Tail Hawks, scientists believe the Galapagos Hawk evolved from the Swainson’s Hawk which arrived in the Galapagos Islands approximately 300,000 years ago.  It is the only endemic predator, and is atthe top of the food chain for those creatures living on the islands.  The Galapagos Hawk developed broad wingspans and tails to allow them to soar over the islands.  Galapagos Hawks are noted for their unusual hunting characteristic as they typically hunt in groups up to three.  Being at the top of the food chain they are extremely successful in their hunting efforts.

Galapagos Hawks have intrigued ornithologists for years due to their unusual (polyandrous) breeding practices within the population.  While the female is olyandrous the male is monogamous.  A single female is known to have up to eight male mates none of whom are close relatives. Together they live in a stable territorial group and cooperate to rear chicks.  The males will spend much of their time building the nest and incubating the eggs.  The hawk family will use the same nests each year.  This practice allows the female to hop around several different nests laying eggs and thus ensuring a higher percentage of hatchlings.

As the hawks develop from juvenile to adult they will undergo a complete change in appearance.  Young hawks are often light brown with an almost white underbelly and light hazel eyes providing them a camouflage with the environment.  As the bird reaches adulthood and no longer in need of protection the feathers become a dark brown, its head a few shades darker and the eyes transforms to an almost black color.  The tail becomes a silver grey color with black streaks.

Now is the best time to see Galapagos Hawks mating on Espanola and Santiago.  During their mating ritual you will see the males showing off their aerobatic talents diving bombing the female. If the female is receptive to the male’s efforts she will flutter down to a low branches of a tree and the male will follow to begin the
mating process.

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