The world's only nocturnal gull lives in Galápagos
Information about Swallow-Tailed Gull
On your cruise in Galápagos, you will have a chance to spot the only exclusively nocturnal gull in the world. The Swallow-Tailed Gull only hunts for food at night, and over time this change to the natural circadian rhythm evolved to be a vital trait of this unique species.
The Swallow-Tailed Gull breeds mainly on the Galápagos Islands. The adults can be recognised by their distinctive black head with a scarlet ring around their eye.
These beautiful birds feed far out at sea - up to 18 miles (30km) away from land. They feast mainly on squid and small fish that swim close to the surface of the water at night, particularly during the first stage of a new moon. It is their fantastic night vision which enables them to hunt for food so successfully in the darkness.
Galápagos Swallow-Tailed Gulls breed from the age of five and only lay a single egg each breeding season. The gull can be seen nesting all year round as they don’t have a particular breeding season and mate opportunistically.
To see this magnificent bird the best viewing sites are on Genovesa, Plaza Sur and Española Islands where you can see around 2000 - 3000 pairs of gulls. A truly incredible sight for all keen nature-lovers taking a Galápagos cruise adventure.
Interesting facts about Swallow-Tailed Gull
A very vocal bird with a strange clicking sound - thought to be used for echolocation
After breeding, adults and juveniles migrate south to Peruvian waters
The best place to spot these creatures in on Genovesa - "The Island of Birds"
The world's only nocturnal gull, they have excellent night vision
Pictures of Swallow-Tailed Gull
Highlights where the Swallow-Tailed Gull can be seen
A walk on North Seymour
North Seymour was formed at the same time as neighboring Baltra Island, and by the same process - an uplifting of undersea lava. This small, flat island has hiking trails throughout, allowing you to explore the arid landscape and to meet the seabirds that call North Seymour home.
North Seymour was the site of one of the earliest conservation experiments in the Galápagos. In 1934 a group of Galápagos Land Iguanas were moved there by Captain Hanckock. They have since thrivedthrived, and there are now well over 2,500 of them on the island and more than 3,000 on the neighbouring Baltra island.
The biggest attraction of North Seymour is its large colony of Blue-Footed Boobies and its Frigatebirds. These popular Galápagos species are often found together because the Frigatebirds rely on the Boobies’ fishing prowess. The Frigatebirds actively steal the Boobies catch to feed themselves!
There is also a population of Marine Iguanas and Galápagos Sea Lions are frequently spotted. The snorkeling here is also very good, with plenty of marine life to see including rays and reef sharks.
A walk on South Plaza
Whilst her twin, North Plaza, is closed to visitors, South Plaza is one of the best visitor sites in the Galápagos thanks to the large number of species present on her small area.
The Plazas were formed as the result of a geological uplift, and because this was uneven they both have cliffs on their south sides and low lying shores on their northern coasts.
The most noticeable (and noisiest) of South Plaza's residents are her Galápagos Sea Lions, who have a large colony here. Less obvious are her land iguanas (the smallest in the islands), many marine iguanas and large numbers and varieties of seabirds.
Inland is a mix of scrubby vegetation and giant opuntia cactus forest, providing food for the iguanas. As you follow the circular hiking trail you will come to the summit of the cliffs here where you'll be among countless nesting seabirds.
Chinese Hat ("Sombrero Chino" to locals) is an islet set just a short distance off the southeastern coast of Santiago. The small channel between Chinese Hat and mainland Santiago is fairly deep yet sheltered, and the water here is a glistening turquoise.
The islet gets its name because if you approach from the north, you will see that this small volcanic cone does indeed look like the traditional bamboo or rice hat. Viewed from above on a satellite image, however, you will see that this islet is actually more of an oval shape.
There is a short hiking trail on Chinese Hat that runs along the western coast of the islet. This is a harsh landscape of volcanic rubble and lava formations, a very atmospheric reminder of the fiery origins of the Galápagos.
Along the cost of both Chinese Hat and the opposite Santiago shore you are likely to see Galápagos Sea Lions and Galápagos Penguins, either basking in the sun or seeking shade to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Overhead, you might catch a glimpse of the magnificent Galápagos Hawk.
The stand-out reason for a visit to Chinese Hat however is to snorkel in that turquoise channel. Here you can see various species of sharks, rays, and a variety of tropical fish. Not all Galápagos boats can visit, and permits are only given to a select few boats and guides. Here at Galapatours we offer itineraries on all of these specially selected boats, so if a visit to Chinese Hat is important to you, speak to one of our Galápagos experts today to help choose the perfect itinerary.
Darwin Bay is a must-visit site for birdwatchers. Starting with a landing on a beautiful white coral beach you are able to follow an easy half-mile trail that will take you through bird-filled mangroves. Species that can be seen on this part of the trail include Nazca Boobies, Galápagos red-footed Boobies, and Swallow-Tailed gulls.
As the path continues you will find tidal pools - favourite spots for Galápagos Sea Lions to lazily swim and play. At the path's end you will come to the top of a cliff which will reward you with a spectacular view.
Puerto Egas (Port Egas) is a sheltered landing site at the southern end of James Bay on the northwestern coast of Santiago. This landing site is the trailhead for two hiking paths.
The first trail runs along the coast to visit the so-called "Fur Seal Grottos". The Galápagos Fur Seals like to seek shade from the equatorial sun, and they prefer rocky shores with caves or other nooks and crannies in which they can keep cool. The grottos here are perfect for them, and the tidal pools are also popular with Galápagos Marine Iguanas who can be seen feeding in and around them.
The second trail from Egas Port heads inland to the "Salt Mine Volcano". This hike is just under 2 miles long and takes you to the rim of a salt mine crater. This "mine" is actually a small volcanic cone that is filled with a salt water lagoon that dries up in the dry season. At several points in the 20th century individuals or companies attempted to mine salt from it, but without commercial success. The name of your landing site is after the owner of the last company to try salt mining here, Hector Egas.
The lagoon is often home to Galápagos flamingos and other birds, and the wonderful Galápagos Hawk can often be seen circling above this area.
Prince Philip's Steps
Named after Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who visited the Galápagos Islands twice, the Prince Philip's Steps pier uses natural rock formations to allow you to land and admire the variety of seabirds that inhabit Genovesa. With careful steps on the wet and slippery lower rocks, you begin your hike near a small colony of Galápagos sea bears before reaching the beautiful vantage point further up with views of the lava plains.
The birdlife will surround you from all sides and you will enjoy the sight and sounds of many wonderful species, including blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies and Nazca boobies, but also small Galápagos owls and Galápagos pigeons.