Conservation Status: Least Concern
Scientific Name: Creagrus Furcatus
Attractive and distinctive looking, the Swallow-tailed Gull is the world’s only nocturnal gull, using highly developed night vision to hunt their prey in the dark. It is a truly unique bird to tick off from your Galapagos bird list.
This elegant gull is most easily recognized for it’s attractive, bright orange/red ring around each eye, and black beak with white base and grey point. Non-breeding adults have a black eye-ring.
The Swallow-tailed Gull prefers the warmer waters at the east of Galapagos but can be spotted in small colonies right across the archipelago.
They look for rocky slopes, lava holes or cliff ledges for nesting, and prefer to have plenty of personal space between nests. The male is responsible for nest construction, building from stones, lava fragments, and sea urchin spines. Only once the nest is ready, is the male ready to attract a mate.
Swallow-tailed Gulls breed year-round with no defined season, so there are always mating pairs to be found. Couples lay just one egg per breeding period, and take turns to guard the nest during the day. At night, the non-brooding parent will fly out to sea to hunt food for the family. This process repeats for up to 3 months until the chick is ready to fly out to sea.
Around dusk, Swallow-tailed Gulls head out to sea together as a small flock. They feed on squid and small fish that swim to the surface at night to feed on plankton.
• The swallow-tailed gull has developed excellent night vision, possibly to be able to hunt at night without the risk of Frigate birds stealing their catch. How do they see in the dark? Thanks to their large eyes (the largest of all gull species), and a unique tissue layer that reflects light back through the retina.
• They have a handy color-coding technique to identify when an individual is ready to mate. When in season their eye rings will turn a bright orange/red color, while for the rest of the year the eye-ring is black.
If you enjoyed this post, then check out more information about Galapagos Bird species.
Written by John Potts
John is the original founder of Happy Gringo. He is from London UK and has over 17 years of travel and work experience in Latin America. John ́s biggest passions in life are travel and nature, he has had the pleasure to visit more than 75 different countries, and calls Quito, in Ecuador, home.