Galapagos Iguanas and Friends

So Put on a Happy Face

This Galapagos marine iguana is likely a female.  She is happily feeding on the green algae which gets exposed during low tide.  Larger male iguanas, with their bigger body mass, are better adapted to diving deep into the cold waters when searching for food.  This iguana is relatively brightly colored since she is wet and not yet dried out from basking in the sun.

Marine Iguanas in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Between feedings all marine iguanas must warm up in the hot equatorial sun on the black volcanic rocks.  They amass on the rocks sunning themselves between feedings in the cold water.

Iguana Beach

I spent a lot of time trying to capture human-like poses of the iguanas as they climbed over one another.  While some of these photos will look like they are hugging, they seem rather oblivious to one another, at times irritated with the jostling caused by the climbing of the others.  The lead guy below quickly scampered from under the pile to a more solitary spot.


On the other hand, who is to say this iguana is not embracing the flaky skinned gal of his dreams.  He has that gleam in his eye and smirk on his face, so there is no telling what he may be planning.

You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine, you make me Happy when Skies are Gray…


Some of the iguanas appeared to be playing hard-to-get, despite the beautiful beach setting arranged by their suitor.

Iguana Blue Beach Club (You Can’t Always get what You Want)


Best Buds Forever


Iguana King

Most iguanas ignored the passing photographers.  However, this one raised up and rapidly approached me.  I quickly left…

Iguana Returning from Lunch

While photographing the bright red Sally Lightfoot crabs, I spotted this iguana returning from feeding in the ocean.  I could see that he was going to try and jump across some water before climbing a cliff, joining his clan basking in the sun.

He waggled a bit, anticipating his take-off and landing…

Leapin’ Lizards – Anticipation


He sprang into action, reaching for the side of the volcanic cliff while exhibiting fine form.

Leapin’ Lizards – The Jump


Splash down, a successful wet landing.  Now we know why they have those long claws.  He easily climbed ten feet up to the top of the cliff, seeking much needed warmth.

Leapin’ Lizards – Splash Down


The Sally Lightfoot Crab

The Sally Lightfoot crab is not unique to the Galapagos Islands.  They are also found along the coast of South America and Mexico.  This nimble jumping crab is said to have gotten their common name from a famous Caribbean dancer.  To the geeks who care about such things, their official name is  Grapsus grapsus.  They serve a wonderful purpose of cleaning up the beaches, eating all forms of smelly organic matter.

Sally’s close-up

Younger Graspus graspus crabs are much darker than the adults, almost a deep maroon color.

Family of Sally Lightfoot Crabs


Nearby Friends and Neighbors

Marine Turtles

The mosaic patterns on this sea turtle’s shell fascinated me and kept me busy for most of an entire morning.  I would wait for many minutes for this turtle to surface for air.  This turtle was trapped in a large pool due to low tide.  Each time the turtle would surface, the light would be wrong, or the turtle would be too far away, so I would then have to play the waiting game again.  All the other members of our photography group had long since moved on to other subjects.

Turtle Mosaic


Flamingos Feeding

Three flamingos feeding

Flamingos feed with their heads upside down, and their bills have adapted accordingly.  In most animals a smaller lower jaw or beak works against a larger fixed upper jaw. In flamingos this is reversed, the lower bill is much larger and stronger. To complete the jaw reversal the flamingo’s upper jaw is not rigidly fixed to the skull. Consequently, with the bird’s head upside down during feeding under water, the upper bill moves up and down, permitting the flamingo’s jaws to work in a normal fashion.  Just thought you may want to know…


Pelicans and the Brown Noddy

The birders and more experienced nature photographers in my group kept talking about the ‘naughty’ birds and how they wished they could get a good photo of them.  This puzzled me for days.  It seemed like an odd bird name, but who would not want to photograph a couple of naughty birds?  As it turns out, they were referring to the ‘brown noddy.’  A better name might be Minnie the Moocher.

Pelicans typically perch in a tree next to a body of ocean water or circle around looking for fish near the surface.  Upon spotting lunch, they will quickly dive down on their prey.

Pelican Dives for Fish

This causes quite a splash and ruckus.  Minnie the Moocher, the brown noddy, has been watching the entire time.  While quite capable of fishing on his own, he would rather steal from the pelican.

Pelican Splash Down

The brown noddy will perch upon the head of the pelican waiting for a fish to flop out, whereupon the noddy would spring into action and steal a meal.  Certainly the pelican would prefer the noddy to mind his own business and not use his head as a perch to steal food, but the pelicans never seemed to try and shake off the noddy.  The noddy seems to be an accepted irritation.  The pelican already has his hands, or mouth, full.  Swallowing lunch without losing it is what the pelican seems to concentrate on.

Brown Noddy Waits for Scraps


When it becomes apparent the pelican has successfully swallowed the entire fish, the noddy quickly gives up and flies away, only to pounce upon the head of the next hard working pelican.

Brown Noddy Flies Away

Too bad the brown noddy was placed against a similarly colored dark brown background, but that was the kind of luck I had in the Galapagos.


Portrait of a Heron

Heron Portrait

The great blue heron is not a rare bird nor limited to the Galapagos.  This one just seemed especially well posed against the black cliffs of the islands.

Next week will be the last of my Galapagos BLOG posts, the blue-footed booby and frigatebird await.



9 thoughts on “Galapagos Iguanas and Friends

  1. These are wonderful, Harold! I was also impressed with your photos from Spain as I just returned from there and noticed many similar places I visited. Happy travels with your photography!

    • And thank you for your continued interest. Soon there should be a new BLOG a week as we travel South America, Tahiti, New Zealand, Tasmania, Australia, Thailand, Japan and Alaska. I’m already tired of all the planning.

  2. Wow, the trip you’ve planned sounds fabulous! Can’t wait to read about it and see your fabulous photos. This was so fun for me to read, especially since we’ll be in the Galapagos the end of November. Love your photos and commentary. Keep the blogs coming!

  3. A great bunch of images … I have always been intrigued by the Marine Iquana …. but the Brown Noddy waiting for scraps is a highlight. Imagine photographing a Great Blue Heron in the Galapagos …. something I see on almost every walk I take around here 🙂

    • I actually felt a bit bad about spending my time on a such a common bird while in the Galapagos. But being so close to it with a dark background kept me photographing him for a while.

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