Episode 285 – Vampire Finch: Birdula

“…and today we’re talking about a ghoulish ground bird. But more on that later.”


  • Males are black, and females are gray with brown streaks.
  • They have squat bodies like a typical finch. 
  • Their beaks are short, sharp, and curved slightly downward.
  • Some have orange or partially orange beaks.

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new measure up intro.


  • 5” (12cm)
  • How many vampire finches go into the “bigature” of Minas Tirith that was used behind the scenes in the making of The Lord of the Rings?
  • Hint: Bigature is a nickname for miniature scale models of LotR locations that were large enough to fill rooms. Minas Tirith was 1/72 scale model, and some sections used for close-ups were 1/14 the size of the real fictional city.
  • 58 finches. Mini Minas Tirith was about 7 meters (22’11’’) high.


  • 20g (0.7oz)
  • How many finches go into the fully submerged displacement weight of a German submarine U-178?
  • Hint: The U-178 was the largest WWII German submarine, with a length of 287 feet. It sank 13 allied vessels, including troop transports, merchant ships, and cargo ships.
  • 89,950,000 finches. The fully submerged displacement weight was 1,799 tonnes (1,771 long tons).

Fast Facts

  • Native to the Galapagos, Wolf, and Darwin Islands.
  • They have distinct calls based on the island they live on. 
  • They have a  lilting song on Wolf Island, a buzzing song on Darwin Island, and whistling calls on both islands.
  • The finches like to eat seeds and bugs, but they will also drink the nectar of the Galapagos prickly pear flower, which sounds pretty good.
  • The vampire finch is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN because it lives in a very specific environment that has been affected by invasive species.