Masked Boobies: Largest of the Boobies
Posted by Greg on November 14, 2012
Surprisingly, no comic book superhero or super-villain has yet claimed the name “The Masked Booby.” It may only be a matter of time!
The Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) is the largest of the boobies, measuring up to a meter (39 inches) long with a 5 to 6 foot wing span. The term “Masked Boobies” once represented a larger group of birds, but recently it has been divided into two separate species. The birds that are no longer called Masked Boobies are now called the Nazca Boobies (Sula granti). Those boobies are mostly seen on the Galapagos, they are slightly smaller, and they have a redish-pink to orange bill instead of the Masked Boobies’ yellow bill. Both groups have white bodies with dark brown to black feathers on their tails and on the trailing edges of their wings.
According to BirdLife International, the masked booby “favors smaller oceanic islands for roosting and breeding, especially those that are flat with un-forested terrain, including low, sandy cays, coral beaches, and arid volcanic islands, both bare and with zerophytic scrub.”
NHPT Nature Works says, “The masked booby breeds in the Caribbean, across the Pacific Ocean, to Hawaii, Australia, and Indonesia. Occasionally, it can be found in the Gulf states of Louisiana, Texas and Florida. It winters in open ocean waters. The masked booby plunges head first into the ocean to catch flying fish and squid. It can dive from distances of over 90 feet.”
Unlike the blue footed booby, the masked booby only raises one chick at a time. The female sometimes will lay two eggs with only one hatching. If both hatch, one will hatch 4 to 7 days before the other. The older and larger chick will push the sibling out of the nest. The parents do not protect the ejected chick from opportunistic predators. It is thought that this process may insure success to have at least one hatchling since their eggs hatch about 60% of the time, and since they are best equipped to take care of only one chick, the ejection helps insure the success of the first born. Both parents share the incubation duties, and like the other boobies, they use their feet to warm the eggs which hatch in 38 to 49 days. The young make first flight in 109 to 151 days but return to the nest to be fed by the parents for another month or two (kind of like when your kids leave the nest but come home to raid the fridge or grab a free hot meal).
Well, what do you think? What sort of super power might “The Masked Booby” possess? Maybe flying and diving fast enough to snatch up Aquaman’s loyal minions from the sea? Feel free to take a gander (yes, that is a waterfowl pun) and tell us your own ideas on the subject.
Happy beach birdwatching!