Swallow-Tailed Gull

The world's only nocturnal gull lives in Galapagos


On your cruise in Galapagos, 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 Galapagos 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.

Galapagos 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 Galapagos cruise adventure.

Photos of the Swallow-Tailed Gull

Fast Facts about the 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

Where can the Swallow-Tailed Gull be seen?

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All cruises to visit the Swallow-Tailed Gull