Galapagos Lava Gull

The rarest gull on Earth


The Galapagos Lava Gull is found nowhere else on Earth except these wonderful islands. There are estimated to be fewer than 300 breeding pairs left, making this the rarest gull in the world.

The Galapagos Lava gull is a striking and unmistakable sight - it’s the only all-dark colored gull in the world, and it also has a distinctive heavy bill. They vary from nearly black to shades of dark grey and have small fringes of white on the edges of wings and tail. 

The Lava Gulls can mainly be found on the islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal and Genovesa. They breed all year round and lay eggs in nests that they build on the ground, often using vegetation close to the coast for shelter. The expert guide on your Galapagos cruise will identify this rare species for you, as well as providing more information on its lifecycle and vulnerable status. 

Like gulls everywhere, Lava Gulls are quite opportunistic feeders and will take what they can, when they can find it. One delicacy they seem to prize are the placentas of Sea Lions that have recently given birth, and on Genovesa they have been seen taking advantage of the food dropped by Frigate birds who hassle the Blue-Footed Boobies for an easy meal. 

Like many ground-nesting species, the Lava Gull is most endangered from introduced non-native species like feral cats and rats that attack and eat adults and/or young hatchlings. The Galapagos National Park has several non-native species control programs in place, and this has helped to stabilize the population thanks to its success. Nevertheless, because of the small numbers of Lava Gulls and because they are found nowhere else, this species is at risk and being carefully monitored.

Photos of the Galapagos Lava Gull

Fast Facts about the Galapagos Lava Gull

  • Their name comes from the fact that the color of their feathers resembles that of lava rocks
  • The Lava Gull is fairly common in the bays around Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island.
  • Lava gulls can often be seen scavenging for scraps near to fishing boats.
  • Unlike other gull species, Lava Gulls are solitary nesters.

Where can the Galapagos Lava Gull be seen?

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All cruises to visit the Galapagos Lava Gull