An Unrelenting Bloodsucker: The Vampire Finch of the Galapagos

Isolated and enigmatic, the enchanted isles seem like the perfect bubble of mischief for unusual things to evolve, stir, and flutter about. Enter the Vampire Finch, a character in the Galapagos’ never-ending book of evolution that’s both equal parts incredible and disturbing. As the name implies, it’s a parasitic bird that evolved to acquire its food in a really peculiar way.

(Were) Wolf & Vampire Finch

Wolf Island sits approximately 200 km (120 miles) northwest of the main cluster of islands in the Galapagos. As if to add to the mystery of the island and the Vampire Finch that lives here, the Galapagos National Park forbids any visitor landings here. Aside from scientists that are allowed to research wildlife on the island, the only other human presence tends to be scuba divers that only come to bask in its waters.

The island is a stone fortress of steep, grey cliffs and an iconic stone arch formation that almost makes it look like Dracula’s discarded castle. Most of the year sees the island, which is home to thousands of seabirds, pounded by waves and practically zero rainfall. Seeds that do manage to pop up throughout its terrain are promptly eaten by ravenous seabirds. Starvation seems imminent on a desolate and eerie island such as this one. But necessity has always been the mother of invention, especially when it comes to evolution.

Thirst First, Quenches Later

With a diet that consists primarily of seeds and insects, the Vampire Finch seems misnamed at first. But when tough times are upon them (and not only when darkness falls) does the Vampire Finch truly live up to its name in an apt and horrifying way. The common scarcity of freshwater and seeds on Wolf is what has led them to develop this bizarre, blood-drinking behavior. (WARNING: Viewer discretion is advised)

With the largest and most pointed beak of all the members of Geospiza difficilis, the Vampire Finch acquired this sharp tool for reasons that mainly have to do with the drawing of blood. Scientists believe that this acquired, flesh-puncturing beak may be an extension of a former cleaning behavior that involved the removal of ticks from other birds. It’s not completely implausible to consider that the Vampire Finches actually provided a service to the birds it now preys on for blood.

Maybe they accidentally struck “red gold” one day when they picked a little too hard into the back of a booby. Speaking of which…

Bound for Booby Blood and Eggs

The Vampire Finch feeds chiefly on the Nazca and blue-footed booby, relentlessly pecking at their backs and under their wings until a steady stream of nutritious blood comes drizzling out.

What’s interesting to note is that the boobies often seem pretty laissez-fare with the whole ordeal. Perhaps they still think that the vampire finches are removing parasites or, even more disturbing – have completely resigned themselves to the fact that nothing will make them (and their large numbers) stop.

Check out the following video to see for yourself (WARNING: Viewer discretion is advised):

Vampire Finches are also slightly more terrifying due to the fact that they go after baby boobies and eggs too. Incapable of cracking through the tough shell with their beaks, they’ve actually come up with a clever way to break the eggs using their environment. This involves rolling them around into rocks until they break open and then greedily extract the golden juices from within.

Though birds are easily spotted in the Galapagos, we have some useful tips if you want to increase your chances of spotting this particular animal.

Travel to Galapagos in search of its famous Vampire Finch aboard Yacht La Pinta!

Updated:May 8, 2023

Published:May 4, 2017


Machu Picchu & Galapagos Islands Tour 2024 Package: 12 days / Quito, Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu / From USD 9,598 per person



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This small, secret rooftop of the restored Casa Gangotena mansion peers over Plaza San Francisco in the center of Quito’s colonial Old Town, the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Order a Cedrón Spritz, a refreshing mix of rum, lemon, sparkling wine, and fresh lemon verbena (cedrón) syrup and leaf, then revel in the mesmerizing, real-time montage of daily life in Ecuador’s capital as it parades past.

National Geographic Traveller

A Font of information, Klaus has spent decades in the field, leading tours in the Amazon, Andes and Galapagos Islands. He hung up his guiding boots a few years back and now creates itineraries for the tour operator, Metropolitan Touring. Adrift in the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from mainland South America, Galapagos is one of the most biodiverse locales on Earth.

Cruise Critic

Santa Cruz II is a replacement for the much-loved Santa Cruz, which plied the waters of the Galapagos for 36 years. It is not a new ship; it was built in 2002 and sailed as Mare Australis under the Australis cruise brand, operating expedition cruises around Cape Horn and to Antarctica. Metropolitan Touring bought the ship in 2015 and completely refurbished it, launching it as Santa Cruz II in October 2015.

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When this modern, minimalist, glass-walled jungle lodge opened in 2012, it changed the accommodation game in South America. Arquitect Alfredo Ribadeneira’s “protective cocoon” would impress in a modern city; in the depths of an Andean cloudforest, it is wild, audacious and beautiful. Though only 70 miles from Quito, Maspi Lodge sits in splendid isolation, perched on a cliff at the end of an unsealed road.

Terms and Conditions

Itinerario de 5 días / 4 noches: Basado en la tarifa regular (4214 USD + impuestos por persona)
Itinerario de 7 días / 6 noches: Basado en la tarifa regular (5672 USD + impuestos por persona)
No reembolsable. Aplica únicamente para residentes ecuatorianos en nuevas reservas directas realizadas, hasta el 30 de junio del 2022, con un ejecutivo de ventas del hotel. Válido para estadías hasta el 31 de agosto de 2022. No puede ser combinada con otros descuentos, promociones u ofertas. El descuento no aplica para otros servicios. El precio no incluye recargo de combustible de $20 por noche de crucero.

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