Friday 17 May
Lava gull (Larus fuliginosus)
Lava gull fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Lava gull description
There are less than 800 lava gulls alive, making this the rarest gull in the world (2). The name comes from its dark sooty-grey plumage, which is darkest on the wings and paler on the belly, and also because it spends much of its time on the lava rocks strewn on the shores of the Galapágos Islands (3). The bill and feet are black, and the head is almost black, with conspicuous white eyelids (4).
- Length: 51 – 55 cm (2)
Lava gull biology
The lava gull feeds on a wide variety of animals; crustaceans, baby marine iguanas, small fish and seabird eggs, and will also scavenge around fishing boats and at human settlements for offal and scraps. It is also known to feed on the placentas of sea lions. Feeding occurs along the shore, which it flies along at three to five meters while scanning for food, or whilst hovering over the water’s surface, waiting to snatch any floating offal (2). The lava gull is a solitary nester that breeds throughout the year, with a peak between May and October. Within a large territory, two eggs are laid in a simple scrape nest (2).Top
Lava gull range
The lava gull breeds only on the Galapágos Islands, where it is widespread (4).Top
Lava gull habitat
The lava gull occurs on sandy and gravely beaches, and nests in sheltered places near calm water, such as lagoons and pools, usually close to the sea. It can be found in areas of high food availability, such as harbours, when foraging (2) (4).Top
Lava gull status
The lava gull is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Lava gull threats
Although the number of lava gulls is assumed to be stable, there are several potential threats which could have a significant impact on such a small population. Newcastle disease has been identified in domestic chickens on the Galapágos Islands, and poses an imminent threat to lava gulls. With an increase in poultry production, concern has been expressed that there is an increased risk of disease transfer from chickens to native Galapágos bird species which have little resistance to introduced pathogens (5). Other potential threats include an increase in human populations with the associated development, predation and disturbance by introduced species, and an increase in tourists acting as potential vectors for further alien species (4) (6)Top
Lava gull conservation
The majority of the Galapágos archipelago is designated a National Park and World Heritage Site (6), but still remains vulnerable to those threats mentioned above. Population surveys and long-term monitoring would be beneficial in assessing the status of this poorly known species (4), and enabling appropriate conservation measures to be implemented if required.Top
Find out more
For further information on the lava gull see:
Birdlife International - Lava gull:
For further information on conservation in the Galapágos Islands see:
The Galapagos Conservation Trust:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
IUCN Red List (January, 2007)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Hailman, J.P. (1963) Why is the Galipagos lava gull the color of lava. The Condor, 65: 6 - .
Birdlife International (June, 2007)
- Gottdenker, N.L., Walsh, T., Vargas, H., Merkel, J., Jiménez, G.U., Miller, R.E., Dailey, M. and Parker, P.G. (2005) Assessing the risks of introduced chickens and their pathogens to native birds in the Galápagos Archipelago. Biological Conservation, 126: 429 - 439.
UNEP-WCMC (June, 2007)
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.