A Darwin Finch, Crucial to Idea of Evolution, Fights for Survival
One of the world's rarest birds, the mangrove finch has dwindled to a habitat the size of just 12 city blocks. Here's how scientists are trying to bring it back from near-extinction.
Francesca Cunninghame prepared for a sea voyage on a recent afternoon with some strange cargo: eight fledglings of the mangrove finch, one of the rarest birds on Earth.
Birds in hand, the scientist sailed from Santa Cruz, the most populous of the Galápagos Islands, on a boat bound for Isabela Island, 150 miles (240 kilometers) away. There, the last remaining wild population of about 80 mangrove finches (Camarhynchus heliobates) hangs on in two patches of forest no bigger than 12 Manhattan blocks.
The brownish, 6-inch (14-centimeter) bird is one of the famed "Darwin's finches," several species that were collected and brought back to England by the naturalist after his visit to the Galápagos Islands in 1835. (Related: "DNA Reveals