Famous Finches of Daphne Island

Consisting solely of tuff volcanic craters, and almost completely barren, Daphne Island is located north of Santa Cruz and west of Baltra Island in the Galapagos archipelago. The island rises to a height of around 120 meters directly out of the sea, and its distinctive ochre color stands in stark contrast with the blue of the surrounding Pacific Ocean. Although a limited number of tourists are permitted on the island, this is strictly monitored by authorities in order to preserve the island for scientific research. Nonetheless, it is a popular attraction and with only twelve visitors permitted at a time, tours are usually fully booked. Tour boats cruise around the waters of Daphne for birding enthusiasts to view the varied birdlife, while scuba diving in the waters around the island is also popular.

Daphne actually consists of two islands, named Daphne Major and Daphne Minor, with the larger island believed to be the younger of the two and the subject of ongoing scientific research. The most notable research carried out on the island resulted in a Pulitzer Prize winning book named The Beak of the Finch, written by biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant who studied the island’s Darwin’s finches over a period of twenty years. Through capturing and banding every finch on the island, researchers were able to closely observe the behavior and life-cycle of these passerine bird species, also known as Galapagos finches, leading them to validate Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

While a lot of attention has been given to the finches on the island, other birds have also made this island their home. These include masked boobies, blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, Galapagos martins, red-billed tropicbirds, magnificent frigate birds and short-eared owls. Visitors who are permitted on the island will find many of these birds along the trail leading to the rim of the crater. Diving enthusiasts will find diverse marine life around Daphne Island, with tuna, red-tailed snapper, moray eels, yellow-tailed grunts and even whitetip reef sharks swimming around debris left behind by the US Navy following World War II. Measuring a maximum of 1.6 meters in length, whitetip reef sharks are not aggressive, but are known to be curious and may approach divers. They are categorized as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN – the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Thumbnail attributed to Linda Hall Library