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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.

Our trips to spot the Swallow-Tailed Gull

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