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Posts Tagged ‘booby bird’

Masked Boobies: Largest of the Boobies

Posted by Greg on November 14, 2012

Masked Booby With Chick. (Photo by Duncan Wright: PD-USGov-FSA)

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.”

As you can see in this video below, the masked boobies are as unconcerned about the presence of people as their red and blue footed brothers.

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!

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Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding | Tagged: , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

No ~Hula~ for the Red-Footed Booby!

Posted by Greg on April 25, 2012

Often seen perched on coastal trees and shrubs, the colorful Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) lives and breeds on tropical and subtropical islands and atolls of the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and the three seas north of Australia.

Adult Red-Footed Booby With Chick. (Photo:GSH1967/Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies don’t have an elaborate mating dance. Nesting on land, these handsome sea birds breed throughout the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWMI) and at limited sites on the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI).  Red-footed boobies, or ′ā (as they are known in Hawaii), are the only boobies that commonly nest in small trees and shrubs. Egg laying usually peaks from February through April, with the ′ā producing only one egg per season. Equal opportunity guardians, both the males and females share in incubation duties. The young are ready to fly around September. The doting parents feed their young for up to 4 months after fledging (developing wing feathers large enough for flight).

White Morph Red-footed Booby in Flight Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

White Morph Red-footed Booby (Photo:PD-USGov-FWS)

Red-footed boobies have been known to follow, and sometimes land, on ships and fishing boats. They feed mostly on squid and fish and can snatch a flying fish, their favorite food, out of the air. Like their blue-footed relatives, they are great divers and have keen eyesight to spot their prey. They can dive from as high as 26 feet to capture their dinner.

Red-footed boobies are the smallest of all the boobies. They measure 28 to 30 inches in length and have a wing span of  around 4 1/2  feet. Unlike their blue-footed relatives, they aren’t very uniform in appearance.  Almost all Hawaiian birds of this species are white, however, according to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “The Red-footed Booby comes in a confusing array of color morphs, ranging from individuals that are all white except for blackish on the wing, to individuals that are entirely dark brown. Some birds fail to fit neatly into any of the typical color morph categories, and many variations exist. Color morphs do not segregate reproductively or geographically; individuals representing several morphs breed in a single colony.”

Like their booby cousins, they are unafraid of people and easy to capture. In some areas these birds are used for food. Poaching, coupled with other encroachments on their habitat (e.g., insects, rats and feral cats), is resulting in the appearance of declining numbers.

Red-Footed Booby, Kauai, Hawaii (Photo:DickDaniels/Wikimedia Commons)

Jody and I hope that our next Hawaiian vacation will take us to the island of Kauai. We’ll definitely plan a visit to Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, where we now know to be on the lookout for these very interesting and beautiful coastal birds!

-Now, can someone please tell me how to pronounce ′ā?

Have a great day birding at the beach! Aloha! 

Related links: Hawaii’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Boobies? Seriously, Boobies, Blue-Footed Booby

National Geographic, Red-Footed Booby


Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Beaches of The Hawaiian Islands | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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. 

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Happy beach birdwatching!

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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