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Boobies? Seriously, Boobies.

Posted by Greg on February 15, 2012

Male Blue-Footed Booby Displaying Foot. (Photo:Pete/Wikimedia Commons)

While researching coastal birds, I ran across boobies.  Seriously, boobies! The name was unusual enough to grab my attention, but after learning more about them, I found these shore birds not only to be quite beautiful, but interesting too. Especially the Blue-Footed Boobies (Sula nebouxii). They have the most unusually striking blue feet I’ve ever seen, outside of Cartoonland. It also works out that the brighter the blue feet, the more attractive the males are to the females, and the males really do like to strut their stuff. Their feet, that is. According to National Geographic,  “All half-dozen or so booby species are thought to take their name from the Spanish word “bobo.” The term means “stupid,” which is how early European colonists may have characterized these clumsy and unwary birds when they saw them on land—their least graceful environment.” They are, however, good fliers.  The article continues,  “Blue-foots (boobies) nest on land at night. When day breaks, they take to the air in search of seafood, sometimes fishing in cooperative groups. They may fly far out to sea while keeping a keen eye out for schools of small fish, such as anchovies. When their prey is in sight, these seabirds utilize the physical adaptations that make them exceptional divers. They fold their long wings back around their streamlined bodies and plunge into the water from as high as 80 feet (24 meters). Blue-footed boobies can also dive from a sitting position on the water’s surface.

Male Blue-Footed Booby in Courtship Display. (Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

Blue-footed boobies average 32 inches long with wingspans of 5 feet. They weigh just over 3 pounds. Females are slightly larger than the males. They range from the Gulf of California to Peru, along the eastern Pacific coast. About half of the breeding pairs are found on the Galapagos Islands. They are not very self-aware and show unwarranted bravery, so they are easily captured (or worse) by people or predators.

Blue-footed boobies have a unique mating dance.  New Hampshire Public Television describes the mating ritual as follows; “Blue-footed boobies have a very elaborate mating ritual. The male raises one blue foot in the air and then the other as he struts in front of the female. Both the male and the female stretch their necks and point their bills to the sky. The male spreads his wings and whistles. The female may tuck her head under her wing.” If you would like to see the spectacle for yourself just click this link to YouTube. Stay tuned for the credits. They’re a real hoot!

If you have an interest in a shore bird (or any coastal wildlife) and would like more information, please let us know on the Questions and Requests page. 

Also, we’d appreciate it if you shared us with your friends and Liked us on Facebook. (One Shell of a Find)

Happy beach birdwatching!

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