Land Bird Conservation Program

Land Bird Conservation Program


Land Bird Conservation Program


Galapagos National Park Directorate; Charles Darwin Foundation


Funded in 2013; ongoing

Darwin's Finch

A species of Darwin’s Finch (Photo by Dana Carson)


Existing knowledge about Galapagos land birds, including their population sizes, health, and breeding success, is currently incomplete. In recent years, populations of several species — including the Vermilion flycatcher, Warbler finch, woodpecker finch, mangrove finch, and small, medium, and large tree finches — have declined on some islands, and some have even gone extinct. The reasons for these declines are not completely understood, although the biggest threat to land birds is the invasive fly, Philornis downsi, a parasite that feeds on the blood of nestlings and causes very high levels of fledgling mortality. Declining Galapagos land bird species may also be in competition with the introduced Smooth-billed ani and may suffer from predation by introduced mammals, such as rats and cats. Habitat changes and diseases such as avian pox may also be impacting these birds.

Researchers and collaborators are currently evaluating the status of land birds in the archipelago and developing strategies to detect species declines in a timely manner. They are also carrying out studies on the ecology of little-known species with the aim of developing plans for protecting the most threatened species of birds. Various control methods for Philornis downsi are also being developed and tested in Galapagos.

Read the September 2012 Galapagos Land Bird Conservation Plan by the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park Directorate.

Latest Updates:

August 2016 study | Rearing Larvae of the Avian Nest Parasite, Philornis downsi (Diptera: Muscidae), on Chicken Blood-Based Diets by CDF researchers Lahuette et al, Journal of Insect Science.

May 2015 study | Philornis downsi, An Avian Nest Parasite Invasive to the Galapagos Islands, in Mainland Ecuador by Bulgarella et al, Annals of the Entomological Society of America.