Gulls are our idea of a typical seabird. There's about 100 species worldwide and in the Galapagos there
are two unique species found nowhere else. The lava gull (Larus fuliginosus) is among the world's
rarest birds, with about 600 pairs. Despite the small number the population is stable and the species seems
safe from extinction. The Galapagos' other unique gull species is the swallow tailed gull (L.
furcatus). It's unique as the world's only night-flying gull.
The swallow tailed gull is a bird of rocky cliffs where it nests. They are the only gull to feed at night, hence the large eyesused to spot squid that come toward the surface. They have special ridges along the bill that helps them grasp the slippery prey. The tip of the bill is whitish so that young can see it in the dark when the adult brings home something to eat.
It's easy to see how this species got its namethe dark plumage is ideal camouflage against the dark basaltic rock that lines much of the Galapagos coastline. These birds are scavengers (like most gulls) and so they're sometimes seen on beaches. This picture (and the one above) was taken on Darwin Beach, Tower Island.