When Is the Wildlife Most Active in the Galapagos?

Blue-Footed Booby Mating Dance, Witnessed on an Odyssey Galapagos Cruise
Blue-Footed Booby Mating Dance, Witnessed on an Odyssey Galapagos Cruise

The Galapagos is always abuzz with wildlife activity, from curious mating dances and building nests, to drastic appearance changes (makeover!) and raising young.  Although Mother Nature has a mind of her own and doesn’t always adhere to the following, below you will find what is most common to see in the Galapagos each month of the year regarding seasonal wildlife activity and best chances to see mating rituals, nesting and offspring.  There’s no bad time to visit the Galapagos, but our handy wildlife calendar will help if you’re particularly keen to see a particular animal’s behavior.

January:
* Land birds start nesting, generally after the first rain
* The green sea turtles arrive to beaches in GPS for egg laying period
* On Isabela, land iguanas begin reproductive cycles

February:
* On Floreana Island greater flamingos start nesting
* Bahama pintail ducks (Black-tailed pintail) start their breeding season
* Nazca (masked) boobies on Hood are at the end of their nesting season
* Marine iguanas nest on Santa Cruz Island
* Nesting season of the Galapagos dove reaches its peak

March:
* Marine iguanas nest on Fernandina Island
* March 21st, the beginning of the summer equinox signals the arrival of the waved albatross to Española Island.

April:
* Massive arrival of waved albatrosses to Española Island, where an amazing courtship begins.
* End of hatching season of the giant tortoises
* Eggs of green sea turtles begin to hatch
* Eggs of land iguanas hatch on Isabela Island

May:
* North Seymour’s blue-footed boobies begin their courtship
* Sea turtles are still hatching on Gardner Bay, Punta Cormorant, and Puerto Egas
* Most of marine iguanas’ eggs hatch from nests on Santa Cruz
* Waved albatross on Española start laying their eggs
* Ban-rumped storm petrels begin their first nesting period

June:
* Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island migrate from the highlands to the lowlands in search of suitable nesting places
* Beginning of the nesting season of giant tortoises
* Southern migrants have started their journey towards the north. Galapagos is a rest stop for such birds. Some species of cetaceans (Whales and Dolphins) also follow this pattern of migration.
* Some groups of Humpback whales that migrate up to equatorial latitudes along the coast of Ecuador can reach the Galapagos too.

July:
* Sea bird communities are very active (breeding), especially the Blue footed boobies on Española Island. Flightless cormorants perform beautiful courtship rituals and nesting activities on Fernandina.
* If you walk along the shores of Puerto Egas (Santiago Island) you could find American oystercatchers nesting.
* Lava lizards initiate mating rituals until November
* Cetaceans (whales & dolphins) are more likely to be observed, especially off the western coast of Isabela Island
* Great month to see the four stages of nesting in Blue footed boobies: eggs, chicks, juveniles and sub-adults.

August:
* Galapagos hawks court on Española and Santiago Islands
* Nazca (masked) boobies and Swallow-tailed gulls nest on Genovesa Island
* Giant tortoises return to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island
* Pupping season (births) of sea lions has started. Western and central islands are common places for such sightings.

September:
* Peak of the cold (Garúa) season
* Galapagos Penguins show remarkable activity on Bartolome Island. Since May swimmers and snorkelers can be delighted at Bartolome with penguins active at the surface or torpedo-like while underwater.
* Sea lions are very active. Females have reached estrus stage, and so harem-gathering males are constantly barking and fighting. Shore fighting is heavy. Western and central islands are the most active ones in terms of sea lions’ activities.
* Most species of sea birds remain quite active at their nesting sites.

October:
* Lava herons start nesting until March
* The Galapagos Fur Sea lions begin their mating period
* Blue footed boobies raise chicks all over Española and Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela)
* Giant tortoises are still laying eggs

November:
* Pupping of sea lions occurs
* Sea lions are sexually active on the eastern part of the archipelago
* Breeding season for the brown noddies
* Band-rumped storm petrels begin their second nesting period
* Sea lion pups (especially at Champion Islet) play aqua-aerobics next to snorkelers. Most pups here are curious enough to nibble at fins of snorkelers. The average age of most pups is 3-4 months.

December:
* Hatching of giant tortoise’s eggs begins and lasts until April
* Green sea turtles display their mating behavior
* The first young waved albatrosses fledge
* First red pouches of Great frigate birds seen at Genovesa

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