May 3

The Floreana mockingbird (Mimus trifasciatus) is a small, charismatic bird that is endemic to the Galapagos. Having disappeared from the island of Floreana at the end of the 19th century, the Floreana mockingbird is today restricted to just two small islets within the Galapagos Archipelago.

The Floreana mockingbird is a particularly emblematic species in the Galapagos Islands due to its association with the formulation of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Floreana mockingbird feeding on Opuntia cactus flower

Floreana mockingbird feeding on Opuntia cactus flower

Reintroduction hope

In 2008, the Floreana mockingbird was uplisted from Endangered to Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, resulting in the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Galapagos National Park (GNP) establishing a management plan to safeguard the species.

It is hoped that under the management plan, scientists will eventually be able to reintroduce the Floreana mockingbird back to its island of origin, as the two islets of Champion and Gardner are not thought to be large enough to sustain the future survival of this species.

The current population on Champion (the smaller of the two islets) fluctuates between just 20 and 40 individuals, while Gardner maintains a population of up to 80 birds.

Ongoing monitoring by scientists

As part of an ongoing monitoring programme, scientists from the Charles Darwin Foundation have been monitoring the Floreana Mockingbird over the last 4 months, in a bid to determine the population status of this species and identify management actions to reduce its risk of extinction.

As part of the monitoring work, eighty individuals have been caught and banded. “The main advantage of banding individuals is that it gives us a way to accurately estimate population size on the Champion and Gardner islets,” explains Luis Ortiz-Catedral, the Charles Darwin Foundation Floreana Mockingbird Project coordinator. “Such tagging also helps to identify the composition of reproductive groups, the size of their territories and, most importantly, their nesting sites, thus making it possible to evaluate reproductive success.”

Introduced species on Floreana, such as cats, rats, goats and pigs, played a key role in driving the mockingbird population on the island to extinction. As part of the reintroduction plan, the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galapagos National Park are working to eradicate introduced species from the island and to restore the island’s natural environment.

Floreana mockingbird ringed for population monitoring

Floreana mockingbird ringed for population monitoring

10 year project

The project to protect the Floreana mockingbird is being carried out in 3 phases and is expected to take around 10 years to complete. The initial phases deal with planning and gathering information that will facilitate the successful reintroduction of this species to Floreana, including gathering detailed field research on breeding, habitat use, feeding and other aspects of its ecology. Working with the local community, refining breeding techniques to help increase the species’ reproductive success, and removing invasive species are also part of the management plan for the Floreana mockingbird.

Following the release of the Floreana mockingbird back to the island of Floreana, scientists from the Charles Darwin Foundation will be heavily involved with supervising the newly released population to ensure a successful reintroduction.

Find out more about the Charles Darwin Foundation and conservation in the Galapagos at the Galapagos Conservancy

Read more about the Floreana mockingbird on ARKive.

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author