Galapagos Short-eared Owl
A daylight hunter, one of two Galápagos owl species
What you need to know about the Galapagos Short-eared Owl
This stunning bird is one of only two species of owls native to Galápagos, the other being the Galápagos Barn Owl. This small dark-brown owl measures up to 16 inches (40cm) in length and is well distributed around the islands. Elsewhere in the world the numbers of short-eared owls are declining, but thanks to the protected status of the Galápagos National Park they are thriving on the islands.
As suggested by its name the Short-Eared Owls ear tufts are incredibly small and can be just about visible near the centre of their forehead. This defining feature that gives the bird its name is in contrast to its large eyes and head, as well as its impressive wingspan.
The Short-Eared Owl nests on all the major Galápagos islands, and on your cruise you are most likely to spot them in open grasslands or up in the Highlands during shore excursions. You can also sometimes see them flying between the islands to nest or hunt for food.
The presence of other predatory birds determines the behaviour of this owl. If the Galápagos Hawk is in the area, the Short-Eared Owl is known to restrict its nighttime activity, but only if a Galápagos Barn Owl is nowhere nearby. When the Hawks aren’t around, you can see this owl hunting during the day in places such as Genovesa Island.
Short-Eared owls have a varied diet, and they will prey on smaller birds, Rice Rats, mice, reptiles and large insects. On your Galápagos cruise, you will enjoy shore excursions that will give you a fantastic opportunity to observe these owls and capture photos and memories that will last a lifetime.
Galapagos Short-eared Owl: Interesting facts
If Galápagos Hawks and Barn Owls are present in the same area, these owls will stay away
Usually hunts during the day
The female is larger than the male
Their preferred hunting grounds are around Storm Petrel colonies
Galapagos Short-eared Owl: Pictures from our travelers
Spots where the Galapagos Short-eared Owl can be observed
Asilo de la Paz
Asilo de la Paz on Floreana is a historically important site for the Galápagos. It marks the place where some of the first settlers on the archipelago stayed, and you can visit these caves as well as the rare freshwater spring that made life possible for humans here.
The visitor center is located a short transfer from Puerto Velasco Ibarra on the western coast of Floreana. From the visitor center you can hike up to the top of a 1,470ft hill, walking through magnificent Scalesia forest and passing by a breeding centre where San Cristobal Giant Tortoises are kept - the native Floreana Galápagos tortoises are long extinct, hunted by humans for their meat.
The hiking trail up the hill is hard going in places, and our Galapatours guides really recommend good hiking footwear for this excursion - avoid open-toed shoes.
Darwin Bay is a must-visit site for birdwatchers. Starting with a landing on a beautiful white coral beach you are able to follow an easy half-mile trail that will take you through bird-filled mangroves. Species that can be seen on this part of the trail include Nazca Boobies, Galápagos red-footed Boobies, and Swallow-Tailed gulls.
As the path continues you will find tidal pools - favourite spots for Galápagos Sea Lions to lazily swim and play. At the path's end you will come to the top of a cliff which will reward you with a spectacular view.
El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve
The inland areas of Santa Cruz provide fantastic opportunities to get close to wild Galápagos giant tortoises. These wonderful creatures can be seen roaming around in the agricultural fields, and also in the famous El Chato Tortoise Reserve, where the native vegetation is preserved.
The trail to the Reserve begins at Santa Rosa, about an hour's drive from Puerto Ayora, and during the dry season this is a haven for Giant Tortoises as they migrate from coastal to highland areas, and you can observe the natural behaviours of these truly wild animals.
There is a pond at El Chato that is often surrounded by tortoises, and sometimes even filled with them as they enjoy wallowing in the cool water. Surrounding the ponds are hundreds of acres of natural highland pasture and native Scalesia forest where you may encounter owls, Darwin’s finches, Vermilion Flycatchers, and Galápagos Rails.
For many Galapatours guests the highlight of their trip is following our expert guide into the ancient forest and then hearing heavy footsteps and crunching noises ahead, finally rounding a corner to see a truly wild Galápagos Giant tortoise doing what they have done for millennia before humans came to Galápagos.
Prince Philip's Steps
Named after Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who visited the Galápagos Islands twice, the Prince Philip's Steps pier uses natural rock formations to allow you to land and admire the variety of seabirds that inhabit Genovesa. With careful steps on the wet and slippery lower rocks, you begin your hike near a small colony of Galápagos sea bears before reaching the beautiful vantage point further up with views of the lava plains.
The birdlife will surround you from all sides and you will enjoy the sight and sounds of many wonderful species, including blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies and Nazca boobies, but also small Galápagos owls and Galápagos pigeons.
Santa Cruz Highlands
Santa Cruz is the only island on the Galápagos that allows you to travel through every habitat type that exists in the archipelago. This makes the journey north from the coast up into the highlands a fantastic opportunity to experience the breadth of life that exists on these islands.
Your bus journey starts from Puerto Ayora on the coast and you slowly start to climb through the agricultural zone where open fields begin to give way to lush, green, mist-covered forests. This is a marked contrast to many of the islands which are at much lower elevation and much more arid. This rich verdant landscape is predominantly made up of dense Scalesia forest.
Your expert Galapatours guide will stop several times along the route to allow you to explore various different sites. Among the stops will be a Giant Tortoise reserve, and also a visit to the famous lava tubes. Over half a mile long, a walk through these natural volcanic features is eerie and unforgettable.
Also along the way you will stop for refreshments, and you'll be able to try locally-grown Galápagos coffee - we think it's among the best we've ever tasted!
Sierra Negra Volcano
Sierra Negra is renowned as the most impressive volcano in the Galápagos. The crater is over 6 miles across and is the second largest in the world.
However, to visit the volcano is quite a logistical effort. The only way to get there is to start with a 45 minute drive from Villamil to a trailhead from where you can follow another 2 hours of trails up to and along part of the rim.
There's also the option to walk on quite recent lava flows, as the so-called parasitic cone of Volcan Chico last erupted in 1979 leaving large flows to cool to rock.
The journey is well worth the effort, as the views from the rim of Sierra Negra are simply stunning. You can see across the other volcanoes on Isabela and across to Fernandina.
Your expert Galapatours guide will explain in detail about the geological processes that shaped not only this part of Isabela, but of the whole Galápagos.
Los Gemelos (or the Twin Craters) are not, in fact, craters - although no less impressive for it! These two large pits were actually caused by the collapse of empty magma chambers after a volcanic uprising. They are easy to access from the Puerto Ayora to Baltra road.
There is a lovely walking trail here that leads up to and then around the rim of both craters. The hike takes you through the wonderful Scalesia Forest, which is full of bird life. It's likely you will see Galápagos Doves, Darwin's Finches, the stunning Vermilion Flycatcher, as well as short-eared owls and many other species.
As you climb up to the rim of the craters you are rewarded with a breathtaking view over the Scalesia canopy, it's lush green a real contrast to the arid vegetation on much of the other Galápagos Islands you can visit.