Progress with the Mockingbird Project | March 11th, 2009

A key project that we are financially supporting is the work to save the Floreana Mockingbird Mimus trifasciatus. This is one of the world’s rarest birds, classed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

While common when Darwin visited Floreana in 1835, it is now confined to two small islands offshore of Floreana – Champion and Gardner.  In 2007 there were only about 200 individual birds left.

Successful breeding in 2008 due to high rainfall has, however, provided an opportunity to move surplus birds from these islands back onto Floreana.

The trial reintroduction of some of these additional birds to Floreana is a crucial first step towards ensuring the species’ survival – one key part of a long term programme to restore Floreana’s ecosystem.

The mockingbirds are of outstanding historical and biological importance, the specimens that Darwin collected gave him the key to developing his theory of evolution. 

The FOGOs are working to support this programme.  We have been able to contribute $2500 US to the project so far – a small contribution but an important one that will allow the fire ant eradication part of the project to proceed.  The Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) in Britain is running a “Donate a Darwin” campaign – the Darwin in question being the £10 banknote which has Charles Darwin’s image on the reverse.

If there are sufficient funds available, it is hoped to have mockingbirds back on Floreana during 2009 – a perfect celebration of the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth. Preparatory work could take place between January and March, with the reintroduction getting underway during April to June when food is more plentiful.

The reintroduced birds will be closely monitored and will provide vital scientific data for a larger three-year captive breeding programme with aviaries on the islands of Santa Cruz and Floreana, to be managed by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in partnership with the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park. The hope is that this programme can also start next year.