The endemic Galapagos lava gull is a medium-sized gull and a member of the hooded gull group. The lava gull is easily distinguishable by the white line on the leading edge of its grey wings, and the crimson colouring on the inside of its mouth. Adult plumage: sooty brown to black head, dark grey wings with a white line on leading-edge, pale grey belly, upper tail white, lower tail brown, bill and legs are black, inside of mouth is scarlet, upper and lower eyebrows are white.
The Galapagos lava gull is found predominantly on four islands: Santa Cruz, Genovesa, San Cristobal and Isabela, but has been spotted all across the Archipelago.
Unlike most gulls, these birds are solitary nesters, rarely nesting less than 100 metres apart, and defending their, roughly, 2000 m² of territory rigorously. The gulls often choose to nest on the ground under the shelter of coastal vegetation and typically lay two eggs, which have a distinct olive colour.
Lava gulls are omnivores, obtaining their food through stealing from nests or fisherman, eating newly hatched iguanas, turtles and lizards or feeding on sea lion placentas.
Predators of lava gulls include owls, frigate birds, other lava gulls, as well as introduced mammals.
Where to see them:
Endemic to Galapagos, predominantly on Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal and Genovesa. Often found near human settlements and in harbours scavenging for food.
When to see them:
Although found in small numbers, the lava gull can be seen perennially throughout the Archipelago.
The species is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and continue to be threatened by many predators; owls, frigate birds, and other lava gulls.
We are currently working on determining the risks of marine plastic pollution to seabirds, including the lava gull, as part of our Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos Programme. You can help us to protect seabirds, including lava gulls, by donating to today.