Darwin’s Finches

Darwin’s finches are found throughout the archipelago, from the low, arid coastlines up to the highest crater rims above 1,700m (5, 600ft). They are found in all the ecosystems in Galapagos, from mangrove estuaries and cactus forest to the Miconia and tree fern zones. As Darwin himself wrote “Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one, small intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends.” (Voyage of the Beagle, 1839)

These small land birds of the Galapagos Islands were named after Darwin by ornithologist Percy Roycroft Lowe in 1936 in his publication “The finches of the Galapagos in relation to Darwin’s conception of species”, “Ibis (journal)” Ibis (6): 310-321. Here is found the first reference to “Darwin’s finches”, and so they have been known ever since.

They are a group of 14 species in four genera; all found on the Galapagos Islands with the exception of the Cocos finch on Cocos Island ( an island belonging to Costa Rica).

In 1963, Robert Bowman compared the different beak sizes and shapes of Darwin’s finches to the different types of pliers found in a workman’s toolbag. From needle-nosed pliers to heavy-duty linesman pliers, this analogy is useful for the layman to understand how the differing beak shapes allow for a high degree of specialization in foraging techniques which in turn allows for a division of resources and separation of niches. After decades of research, there is probably no better-studied population of living birds than the Darwin’s finches of Galapagos.

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