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Flightless Cormorant

One of the best examples of the unique fauna of the Galapagos, the flightless cormorant has evolved to be a curious bird indeed. As the name indicates, flightless cormorants no longer take to the sky. They did when they arrived to the islands some 2 million years ago, but a lack of land predators and a focus on ocean diving for food lead to their development on larger bodies, without the hollow bones or oily feathers most birds have. The flightless cormorant has webbed feet and strong legs, allowing it to navigate the shallow waters off the coast with authority in search of fish and eels to eat.

The breeding habits of the flightless cormorant are similarly curious. Defined by a bending of gender roles, the females are the aggressive mating partners and often pursue males with fierce assertiveness, and are known to pursue many partners while each male remains stationary to care for the young. The flightless cormorant is found only on Isabela and Fernandina, and nowhere else in the world. This makes the species very vulnerable to the introduction of predators and to unexpected events like oil spills of El Nino storms.