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Swallow-Tailed Gull

Swallow-Tailed Gull

The world's only nocturnal gull lives in Galápagos

What you need to know about the 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.

Swallow-Tailed Gull: Interesting facts

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

Swallow-Tailed Gull: Pictures from our travelers

Swallow-Tailed Gull
Swallow-Tailed Gull
Swallow-Tailed Gull

Spots where the Swallow-Tailed Gull can be observed

Chinese Hat
Chinese Hat

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.

A walk on North Seymour
North Seymour

The island is named after an English nobleman, Lord Hugh Seymour and has an area of 1.9 square kilometers and a maximum altitude of 28 meters. This island is home to a large population of blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls and hosts one of the largest populations of frigatebirds. North Seymour has a visitor trail approximately 1.2 mi in length crossing the inland of the island and exploring the rocky coast.

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.

Our trips to spot the Swallow-Tailed Gull

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