Galapagos martin (Progne modesta)

Also known as: Southern martin
GenusProgne (1)
SizeSize: 15 cm (2)

The Galapagos martin is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).

Like most bird species, the male Galapagos martin is more strikingly adorned than its female counterpart. While the male boasts a glossy, dark steely-blue plumage, with blacker wings and tail, the females possesses somewhat duller upperparts and uniformly dusky brown underparts, with juveniles resembling adult females. Individuals emit a variety of calls, from a short warbling song, to a twittering flight call and high-pitched alarm call (2).

As its common name implies, this bird is found in the Galapagos Archipelago, Ecuador, where it occupies the central and southern islands of Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, Pinzón, Daphne, Baltra and Seymour, Santa Cruz, Santa Fé, San Cristóbal, Española and Floreana, although no breeding has been recorded on Española (3).

Found in coastal lagoons, forests and mountainous areas up to 970 m above sea level (2) (3), although recent evidence suggests that individuals are rarely seen in the lowlands (3).

Relatively little is known about the ecology, behaviour and life history patterns of this rare bird. Nesting has been recorded between August and March (3), during which two to three white eggs are laid in holes and crevices lined with grass, twigs and feathers (2) (3).

The Galapagos martin has been observed feeding on insects such as butterflies and moths, which are caught in flight (2) (3).

With a dangerously small population thought to total fewer than 1,000 individuals, and possibly fewer than 600, the Galapagos martin faces an uncertain future. Furthermore, no more than 50 birds have been recorded at any one site. The population is likely to have declined over the last 200 years, probably as a result of introduced diseases, parasites and nest predators (e.g. rats Rattus), but current population trends and threats are unknown (3).

There are currently no known conservation measures underway to protect this bird. Due to a lack of data, there is an urgent need for surveys throughout its range to determine accurate population estimates and trends. Research into the reasons for the bird’s small population and possible decline is also needed. The information gained from such studies could help guide appropriate conservation measures in the future, and hopefully help secure for this rare native bird a more certain and prosperous future (3).

For more information on the Galapagos martin see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2012)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2004) Handbook of the Birds of the World - Cotingas To Pipits And Wagtails. Vol. 9. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International (July, 2006)