The Galapagos Dove is known for its curiosity. Early sailors who landed on the Galapagos report the native doves landing on their hats, heads or shoulders. Sadly, this natural tame behaviour led to them becoming an easy source of food for both sailors and early settlers!
Luckily, the Galapagos Dove quickly learned to be more cautious about humans, but it’s still common to find your excursion party followed quite closely by one or more of these lovely birds. You can recognise them by their red-brown base color with black and white markings with touches of shimmering green, and their red feet and a bright blue ring around the eye. The best place to look for them is not in the air, but on the ground. The Galapagos Dove takes to the wing very rarely, preferring to keep on the ground where it feeds mainly on seeds and small fruits.
Like many native Galapagos species, the Galapagos Dove is able to show us some of the wonder of evolution in action. Because the Dove favors the more arid parts of the islands where the Opuntia cactus grows, it has taken on the role of pollinator. Because of the lack of bees on islands like Genovesa, the Opuntia cactus spines there have softened over time, allowing the Galapagos Dove to pollinate the plants as well as eat its fruit and help to spread the seeds.
They nest on the ground, and another of their interesting behaviours is that the adult bird will pretend to be injured if a predator gets too close, trying to draw the intruder away with the hope of a much bigger easy meal in the shape of a “wounded” bird.
The Galapagos Dove population is not classed as under concern, however the introduction of cats to the islands has meant that these have become their main threat.
Fast Facts about the Galapagos Dove
- Galapagos Doves love Opuntia cactus - it's thought the fleshy pulp is their main source of water
- On Genovesa, Galapagos Doves perform pollination duties that would be done by bees elsewhere in the world
- Early reports from sailors and settlers say the Galapagos Dove was so unafraid of humans it would perch on their heads
- The curved beak of the Galapagos Dove is perfect for foraging on the ground for seeds and berries