This Floreana mockingbird has a special place in science in that it was this bird that inspired Charles Darwin, during the HMS Beagle voyage, to develop the Theory of Natural Selection. Four species of mockingbird have evolved from a common ancestor in the Galápagos Islands and the variation in these birds was noted by the young naturalist when he visited the islands in 1835.
Today the Floreana mockingbird is one of the rarest birds in the world and occurs only on two tiny islets off the coast of Floreana Island: Gardner-por-Floreana and Champion islands. Although Darwin recorded the species as being common on the main island of Floreana, the last specimen collected on this island was in 1852 and the last reported sighting here was in 1868. The mockingbird was probably extinct on Floreana island by 1888 and extinction has been attributed to human hunting, predation by dogs or cats, disappearance of the prickly pear cactus Opuntia megasperma, a favoured place to nest and a source of food, caused by goats, or more likely, predation at the nest by introduced Black Rats. Current population estimates (from the 2009 survey) are: 47 birds on Champion and 400-500 on Gardner-por-Floreana.
Durrell is a partner in a new effort to restore the island of Floreana back to its former glory. Many of the island’s endemic species are either gone or been isolated to small islets off the coast. A large programme established by the Galápagos National Park aims to remove invasive species from the main island and to start to bring back some of marooned endemics. Durrell’s focus will be primarily on the restoration of the Floreana mockingbird. Durrell, the Charles Darwin Foundation and Zurich University with support from the Galápagos Conservation Trust are developing plans to translocate mockingbirds back to Floreana after invasive threats such as cats are removed and native vegetation begins to regenerate