Fun Swallow-tailed Gull Facts For Kids

Abhishek Mishra
Oct 27, 2022 By Abhishek Mishra
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
Interesting swallow-tailed gull facts for kids.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.3 Min

An equatorial seabird that belongs to the gull or Laridae family, the swallow-tailed gull (Creagrus furcatus) spends most of its time flying over the ocean. A French naturalist, Adolphe Simon Neboux discovered the species in 1846.

The species is an endemic seabird of the Galapagos Islands and is found in countries of South America such as Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.

The species possess gray breast, mantle, and wingtips while the head is white. Unlike other birds, the color of the head and eyes changes in the breeding season, a black head can be observed while a bright red fleshy rim around each eye is found. The back is black with a white mark.

The large eyes possess tapetum lucidum that provides the birds with exceptional night vision that helps them to hunt during the night. Studies also reveal that they have no measurable daily melatonin (a hormone released at night) rhythm that made them the only nocturnal gulls.

The fully nocturnal gull is a carnivore and preys primarily on small fish and squid.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the species in the Least Concern while climate change and predation have emerged as a few major threats to the seabird. A study of 2004 revealed that there are around 35,000 individuals left.

Keep on reading to learn more interesting facts about the swallow-tailed gull. If you want to know more exciting information about different animals, check out these articles on ring-billed gull facts and black-headed gull facts for more.

Swallow-Tailed Gull Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a swallow-tailed gull?

The swallow-tailed gull is the only fully nocturnal gull and seabird native to the Galapagos Islands. The large eyes help to provide the bird with excellent night vision. Also, the seabird is a carnivore and preys primarily on small fish and squid.

What class of animal does a swallow-tailed gull belong to?

The swallow-tailed gull (Creagrus furcatus) belongs to the class of Aves, the family of Laridae, and the Creagrus genus.

How many swallow-tailed gulls are there in the world?

The current population of swallow-tailed gulls is not known but a study of 2004 revealed that there were around 35,000 individuals. Threats such as climate change critically affect these birds but the population seems to be stable.

Where does a swallow-tailed gull live?

The swallow-tailed gull is an endemic species to the Galapagos Islands. During the breeding season, adults are often found on Malpelo Island off the coast of Colombia and they migrate to other countries of South America such as Peru and Ecuador during non-breeding months.

What is a swallow-tailed gull's habitat?

The swallow-tailed gulls generally change their habitat according to the seasons. They dwell on cliffs, sand, and rough lava deposits, while during the mating season, breeding adults construct their nesting habitats on cliff ledges. Also, rocky cliff habitat helps them to camouflage and avoid predation.

Who do swallow-tailed gulls live with?

Like other seabirds, swallow-tailed gulls are found in loose pairs or colonies that could range from 25-30 pairs. Studies also reveal that some adults turn solitary and prefer to live alone. During the mating season, the swallow-tailed gulls nest in colonies generally along the shoreline on the eastern side of the Galapagos Islands.

How long does a swallow-tailed gull live?

The species generally live longer than other species of seabirds and the average lifespan of a swallow-tailed gull is 5-18 years. Species such as southern royal albatross can live up to 42 years.

How do they reproduce?

Swallow-tailed gulls generally reach sexual maturity after five years of birth. These seabirds are generally monogamous which means the pairs remain together every year.

The breeding adults mate throughout the year in mixed colonies. The rocky cliffs and shores of the eastern Galapagos Islands are the major nesting sites. Studies reveal that both males and females are very loyal and territorial.

The breeding season is not known but adult swallow-tailed gulls are involved in several courtship displays during this time. These seabirds usually use distinctive calls to attract each other, males also offer pebbles and food to females.

The nest of these birds includes around 300 pebbles with a small depression in the middle. Also, these birds use small pieces of lava, coral, and sea urchin spines to construct the nest.

Nesting birds generally face the cliff and females lay one single egg.

Both males and females are involved in incubating the egg and the process lasts for around 30-35 days. The chick usually takes around 60-70 days for its first flight and its parents feed them for almost three months.

What is their conservation status?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the species in the Least Concern, while climate change and predation have emerged as a few major threats to the seabird. A study of 2004 revealed that there are around 35,000 individuals left. The swallow-tailed gull is often preyed upon by Galapagos hawks.

Swallow-Tailed Gull Fun Facts

What do swallow-tailed gulls look like?

The swallow-tailed gull possesses gray breast, mantle, and wingtips while the head is white. Unlike other birds, the color of the head and eyes changes in the breeding season – a black head can be observed with a bright red fleshy rim around each eye.

Also, it has a white mark on its bill that is mostly black in color.

These swallow-tailed gull facts would make you love them.

How cute are they?

The swallow-tailed gull is an extremely cute seabird. The colonies of these seabirds often impress the visitors of the Galapagos Islands by their euphonious alarm calls.

Also, one would love to watch male swallow-tailed gulls bringing fish and squids to impress females. Also, the parents are quite protective of their chicks, only one leaves the nest for food while the other guards the baby.

How do they communicate?

Like other species of gulls, the swallow-tailed gull follows the same methods to communicate with each other. The large eyes possess tapetum lucidum that provides these birds with exceptional night vision that helps them to hunt during the night.

Studies also reveal that they have no measurable daily melatonin (a hormone released at night) rhythm that made them the only nocturnal gulls. Also, swallow-tailed gull calls are very much similar to bats which help to locate the prey easily.

How big is a swallow-tailed gull?

The average weight and length of swallow-tailed gull are around 1.34-1.71 lb (610-780 g) and 20-22 in (51-57 cm) respectively. Some of these birds are a bit bigger than the laughing gull and glaucous gull.

How fast can a swallow-tailed gull fly?

The exact speed of the nocturnal gull is not known, but the species generally spends most of its flying over the ocean. Also, the swallow-tailed gulls can fly in unusual patterns. These birds are territorial and generally floats in the air beating their wings slowly. They are also able to resemble the flight of butterflies.

How much does a swallow-tailed gull weigh?

The swallow-tailed gull generally weighs around 1.34-1.71 lb (610-780 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names given to the male and female swallow-tailed gull. Also, their plumage or feather has no differences.

What would you call a baby swallow-tailed gull?

People usually use the term 'chick' to refer to the immature swallow-tailed gull. The chick usually takes around 60-70 days for its first flight and its parents feed them for almost three months

What do they eat?

The swallow-tailed gull is a carnivore seabird that primarily preys on fish and squids such as colossal squids. They are known for snatching food from fishermen near the Galapagos Islands. These animals are often preyed upon by owls.

Are they dangerous?

The swallow-tailed gull generally poses no threats to humans but can attack if someone tries to threaten or harm the seabird. Also, the gull has a sharp bill that is enough to harm humans.

Would they make a good pet?

It is illegal to keep these gulls as pets as they are protected by several laws. Also, it is impossible for them to survive in human conditions and seabirds generally die in captivity. It is always advised to protect these beautiful animals rather than keeping and hurting them.

Did you know...

The newly born swallow-tailed gull chick weighs around 0.09 lb (41 g).

Why is it called swallow-tailed gull?

The species name, 'Creagrus' has been derived from the Greek word 'kreourgos' which means meat. Due to its hook-shaped bill, people thought the meaning would be 'hook for meat.' Also, its tail resembles a two-tined fork.

Swallow-tailed gull vs. lava gull

Both the species, swallow-tailed gull and lava gull are endemic to the Galapagos Islands. The former species is found in several South American countries such as Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, while the latter species is only found on the Islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela, Genovesa, and Cristobal.

Unlike swallow-tailed gull, the lava gull bird is solitary and only one gull in the construction of the nest. Female swallow-tailed gull lays only one egg, while female lava gulls generally lay two eggs.

The swallow-tailed gull is a nocturnal seabird and remains active at night, unlike the lava gull. The lava gull is considered the rarest gull in the world as the IUCN listed the species in the Vulnerable category.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these wandering albatross facts and Laysan albatross facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable swallow-tailed gull coloring pages.

Swallow-Tailed Gull Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Squid and small fish

What Type of Animal were they?

Carnivore

Average Litter Size?

1 egg

How Much Did They Weigh?

1.34-1.71 lb (610-780 g)

What habitat Do they Live In?

rocky shores and cliff ledges

Where Do They Live?

south america

How Long Were They?

20-22 in (51-57 cm)

How Tall Were They?

N/A

Class

Aves

Genus

Creagrus

Family

Laridae

Scientific Name

Creagrus furcatus

What Do They Look Like?

Gray and black

Skin Type

Feathers

What Are Their Main Threats?

climate change and predation

What is their Conservation Status?

Least Concern

south america

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Written by Abhishek Mishra

Bachelor of Arts specializing in History

Abhishek Mishra picture

Abhishek MishraBachelor of Arts specializing in History

As a content writer, Abhishek's passion for writing extends beyond professional content creation. With a Bachelor's degree in History from Ram Lal Anand College in Delhi, Abhishek is a skilled writer in both English and Hindi, bringing a creative flair to his work. He enjoys crafting satires and poetry and is dedicated to producing engaging and informative content.

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Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

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Pradhanya RaoBachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

With a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Christ University, Bangalore, Pradhanya's passion for the English language and literature led her to explore the field of content writing, where she has gained extensive experience in writing, reviewing, editing, and fact-checking. She has also earned certifications in Google Ads Search, Google Ads Display, and Social Media Marketing, showcasing her proficiency in digital marketing.

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