Talkin' Birds On The Galapagos Islands

Oct 7, 2017
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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKIN' ROBIN")

BOBBY DAY: (Singing) Tweedilly, tweedilly, deet. Tweedilly, dillidy, deet. Tweedilly, tweedilly, deet.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Time now for "Talkin' Birds."

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: A bird show - I like that. I love birds.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ray Brown's "Talkin' Birds."

RAY BROWN, BYLINE: Good morning, and welcome to our show, No. 644, originating live from the Galapagos Islands.

(APPLAUSE)

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Well, Ray Brown got back safely from the Galapagos, which I gather is home to a species of birds that aren't seen anywhere else on Earth. Ray, thanks for coming back to join us.

BROWN: Well, thank you - my pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: And as we birding people say, let's not beat around the bush. Did you see the blue-footed booby?

BROWN: Oh, we saw many blue-footed boobies and also their cousins, the red-footed boobies which are just as spectacular.

SIMON: And they were finches that Darwin made famous, right?

BROWN: That's right. At his time, it was thought there were 13 of these species of finches. And you know, he wrote his famous "On The Origin Of Species" 28 after he left the Galapagos Islands. That's the treatise that's really considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology and the scientific theory about natural selection. But it's interesting, Scott, because scientists now with DNA studies and such have decided there are many more than 13 species. They're up to 19, I think, at last measure.

SIMON: And I gather you went snorkeling.

BROWN: We went snorkeling, I think, five times.

SIMON: If you're going to try and persuade me there are birds who live under water, I'm going to be very skeptical.

BROWN: Well, there are birds that swim under water, most notably the flightless cormorant - it only exists there - whose wings have evolved into these tiny little appendages. So this bird cannot fly, but it can definitely swim. And we did swim with them. And we snorkelled along with some other species that kind of might surprise you - green sea turtles, marine iguanas, Galapagos sea lions, Galapagos penguins. And well, this is a real believe-it-or-not - two species of sharks...

SIMON: ...swam underwater with you?

BROWN: Yes, indeed.

SIMON: Ray, the idea's to avoid sharks, man, not go swimming with them.

BROWN: (Laughter) Now you tell me. I'm already back here.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Yeah.

BROWN: But our guide assured us that we needn't be afraid. So we saw these whitetip reef sharks that were maybe 5 feet long. And then we saw these Galapagos sharks, which I understand are a relative or a type of bull shark.

SIMON: Oh, bull shark - great.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: I told you, you wouldn't believe me. And yeah, we swam with them and snorkeled with them. It was quite remarkable.

SIMON: How's the Galapagos doing?

BROWN: I'd say the Galapagos is doing well. You know, they've not surprisingly had lots of challenges from invasive species, for example. People have brought goats there and cats and dogs and pigs and horses and donkeys. I have to say, though, in our seven plus days on the islands, I didn't see any of those invasive creatures.

SIMON: And the whole idea is to try and keep the Galapagos pristine.

BROWN: Exactly. Yeah, and to preserve those unique species that live there.

SIMON: How excited were all these species to be on your radio show, Ray? Can you tell?

BROWN: We couldn't get any of them to - as friendly as they are, they just would not talk.

SIMON: (Laughter) Ray Brown, host of "Talkin' Birds" - thanks so much for being back with us, Ray.

BROWN: My pleasure. Thank you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKIN' ROBIN")

DAY: (Singing) The wise, old owl. The big, black crow.

SIMON: While you were in the Galapagos, did you see any birds that resemble BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music?

BROWN: (Laughter) I haven't seen a photo of BJ. Could you send it along? And I will get back to you on that.

SIMON: All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKIN' ROBIN")

DAY: (Singing) Tweedilly, didilly, deet. Tweet. Tweet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.