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Expedition Journal: Remarkable Land Iguana Encounters in Galapagos take the Spotlight

remarkable land iguana encounters in galapagos
Upon seeing them up high in the skies or the branches of trees, perhaps one of the most striking and radiant features of male frigatebirds in Galapagos (both great and magnificent) are their vibrant red hues that emanate from the iconic red gular sac on their neck. These sacs will only typically inflate during the courting months that occur during the hot season in Galapagos. All of it to impress the ladies. It’s worth remembering that this bird can measure up to an astounding 1.8 meters (~6 feet) upon spreading its wings!

Remarkable Land Iguana Encounters in Galapagos at North Seymour Island

But who would ever in their right mind think to see a Galapagos land iguana sitting right beside these enormous frigatebirds, up high in their perch! Because that’s exactly what happened to us on this extraordinary excursion over North Seymour in Galapagos. remarkable land iguana encounters in galapagosIt’s usually the case that we only get to see land iguanas walking around the designated routes and eating (small plants of some kind or bits of cactus, typically) on North Seymour along the designated routes, But to my utter and complete surprise, I managed to see both of these magnificent beauties (which also happen to be members of our Galapagos BIG15 group of iconic species) up in the highest reaches of the trees in the area, one with its glorious red sac flying along the foliage, the other with its mesmerizing yellow scales intermingling amidst the branches of the tree! And the land iguana was placidly eating away at the fresh leaves on the tree itself!
land iguana up in the trees galapagos

Take a closer look! These unique iguanas are capable of climbing trees in the area that sometimes reach up to 3 meters (~10 feet) in height, as was the case during this rare sighting at North Seymour in Galapagos.

Remarkable Land Iguana Encounters in Galapagos at Dragon Hill (Santa Cruz Island)

It’s always amazing to witness the way in which some animals help each other out. In this case, it looked like they were attacking each other at first, but upon closer inspection, it became clear that the iguana wasn’t moving at all and, instead, allowing an innocent little mockingbird to clean and eat away at its dead scales. This is something that I’m almost positive even you, dear reader, will surely have the chance to witness should come visit the Galapagos! As one of these beautiful birds performs one of their “iguana cleansing” ceremonies. galapagos land iguana mockingbird symbiosisAt the beginning of this particular excursion at the aptly named Dragon Hill, we got the chance to see how this humble yet iconic bird in Galapagos picked away at the various, dead scales of this particular land iguana’s body, ridding it of pesky insects and potential pathogens that often reside on the pieces of dead skin. This is universally known as symbiosis: when one organism helps another without causing any damage to the other organism, all while providing benefits for both parties. In this case, the mockingbird gets fed while the iguana rids itself of potentially fatal illnesses of some kind. Both of these remarkable land iguana encounters in Galapagos were had during our Western Galapagos Islands itinerary aboard Yacht La PintaNote: land iguanas can also be spotted at other visitor sites in Galapagos, such as: Baltra, North Seymour, and Isabela Island (Urbina Bay, Tagus Cove).
Marcelo Izquierdo

About Marcelo Izquierdo

Medical Officer aboard Yacht La Pinta. I'm from Guayaquil and love photography, especially taking pictures of nature and animals while walking with guests on the trails of the Galapagos Islands. I’m also a part-time missionary during my time off and have the privilege of helping other people improve their lives through counseling and comfort. I also am in charge of taking pictures and managing social networks for the Children's Ministry in Ecuador.