Rare Nocturnal Sea Gulls and Parrots Exist

By Christopher Stephens on Saturday, July 20, 2013
Kakapo-Shane-McInnes
“The kakapo is a bird out of time. If you look one in its large, round, greeny-brown face, it has a look of serenely innocent incomprehension that makes you want to hug it and tell it that everything will be all right, thought you know that it probably will not be.” —Douglas Adams

In a Nutshell

Nearly all owls species fly by night, but only very small percentage of species, if any, in most bird families are nocturnal. The non-owl nocturnal avians are nothing short of incredible, and their identity may astound us. Incredibly, a nocturnal sea gull exists in the Pacific Ocean, while a rare parrot walks in the dead of night in New Zealand.

The Whole Bushel

Owls are incredible birds, but when select members of other bird families and orders take up nocturnal lifestyles in the course of evolution, the results may greatly puzzle and surprise us. In the Galapagos Islands, the Swallow-tailed Gull is found foraging on to a large extent on ocean squid, mostly at night.

The birds are well adapted to this fly by night lifestyle, and possess large eyes that resemble those of an owl. These bizarre sea gulls are globally unique in their life history, and also have an unusual swallow like tail.

Research indicates that their behavior is partially controlled by moon cycles and corresponding light patterns. Full moons tend to cause prey to avoid the surface, and as a result, the gulls may stay on land until the phase of the moon subsides, allowing prey to come within striking distance.

Equally as far as birds are considered would be New Zealand’s Kakapo Parrot. This is the most massive parrot species on the planet, and it is also completely flightless. It feeds on a range of plant foods as it walks around heavily wooded island landscapes at night.

The bird is aided by its large eyes and outstanding night vision, but it has little defense against introduced predators. As a result, it is one of the most endangered birds in the world. You can support conservation efforts by donating or volunteering.

Show Me The Proof

Max Planck Institute: Lunar cycle determines hunting behaviour of nocturnal gulls
Birdlife International: Swallow-tailed Gull Creagrus furcatus
Kakapo Recovery