Blue-Footed Booby

Blue-Footed Booby

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Subclass
Infraclass
Superorder
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Sula nebouxii
Population size
6,423
Life Span
17-18 yrs
WEIGHT
1.5 kg
LENGTH
81-90 cm
WINGSPAN
1.5 m

The Blue-footed booby is a marine bird native to subtropical and tropical regions of the eastern Pacific Ocean. It is easily recognizable by its distinctive bright blue feet which play a key role in courtship rituals with the male visually displaying his feet to attract mates during the breeding season.

Distribution

Blue-footed boobies occur among the continental coasts of the eastern Pacific Ocean from California to the Galápagos Islands south into Peru. They spend most of the time in the inshore waters and only come out on land to nest, which they do along the rocky coasts with little vegetation.

Blue-Footed Booby habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Blue-footed boobies are active during the day and outside of the breeding season spend all their time in the water. They hunt by diving into the ocean after prey, sometimes from a great height, and can also swim underwater in pursuit of their prey. They can hunt singly, in pairs, or in larger flocks. Boobies travel in parties of about 12 to areas of water with large schools of small fish. When the lead bird sees a fish shoal in the water, it signals to the rest of the group, and they all dive in unison, pointing their bodies down like arrows. Prey is usually eaten while the birds are still under the water. Individuals prefer to eat on their own instead of with their hunting group, usually in the early morning or late afternoon. Males and females fish differently, which may contribute to why blue-foots, unlike other boobies, raise more than one young. The male is smaller and has a proportionally larger tail, which enables the male to fish in shallow areas and deep waters. The female is larger and can carry more food. Blue-footed boobies communicate with the help of raucous or polysyllabic grunts or shouts and thin whistling noises. The males may throw up their heads and whistle at a passing, flying female. Their ritual displays are also a form of communication.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Blue-footed boobies have a carnivorous (piscivorous) diet. They are specialized fish eaters, feeding on small schooling fish such as sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and flying fish. They will also take squid and offal.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
year-round
INCUBATION PERIOD
41-45 days
BABY NAME
chick
BABY CARRYING
2-3 eggs

Blue-footed boobies are monogamous and form pairs. They are opportunistic breeders and have a very interesting courtship ritual which includes the male flaunting his blue feet and dancing to impress the female. The male begins by showing his feet, strutting in front of the female. Then, he presents nest materials and finishes the mating ritual with a final display of his feet. The dance also includes "sky-pointing", which involves the male pointing his head and bill up to the sky while keeping the wings and tail raised. Blue-footed boobies nest in colonies. Each pair may use and defend two or three nesting sites, which consist of bare black lava in small divots in the ground until they develop a preference for one a few weeks before the eggs are laid. The female lays 2 or 3 eggs and both parents take turns incubating the eggs, while the non-sitting bird keeps watching. The incubation period is 41-45 days and usually, only 1 or 2 chicks are hatched. The male provides food for the young in the first part of their lives because of his specialized diving. The female takes over when the demand is higher. Chicks feed off the regurgitated fish in the adult's mouth. If the parent does not have enough food for all of the chicks, it will only feed the biggest chick, ensuring that at least one will survive. Young females usually start breeding when they are 1 to 6 years old, while males attain reproductive maturity when they are 2 to 6 years old.

Population

Population threats

Blue-footed boobies are not considered endangered at present, however, climate change and shortage of food may cause declines in their population in the future.

Population number

According to the Avian Conservation and Ecology resource the total population size of the Blue-footed booby is 6,423 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The name booby comes from the Spanish word bobo which means "stupid", "foolish", or "clown"; this is because the Blue-footed booby is, like other seabirds, clumsy on land. They are also regarded as foolish for their apparent fearlessness of humans.
  • Since Blue-footed boobies prey on fish by diving headlong into the water, their nostrils are permanently closed, and the birds have to breathe through the corners of their mouth.
  • The blue color of the Blue-footed booby's webbed feet comes from carotenoid pigments obtained from its diet of fresh fish. The feet can range in color from pale turquoise to a deep aquamarine, and males and younger birds have lighter feet than females.
  • When hunting, Blue-footed boobies can do plunge-diving from heights of 10-30.5 m (33-100 ft) and even up to 100 m (330 ft). These birds hit the water around 97 km/h (60 mph) and can go to depths of 25 m (82 ft) below the water surface. Their skulls contain special air sacs that protect the brain from enormous pressure.
  • Mated Blue-footed boobies can recognize each other by their calls. Although calls differed between sexes, there are unique individual signatures that help boobies discriminate the calls of their mates from others.
  • Blue-footed boobies do not have a brooding patch so they use their feet to keep the eggs warm.
  • While nesting, the female Blue-footed booby constantly turns to face the sun throughout the day, so the nest is surrounded by excrement, called guano.

References

1. Blue-Footed Booby on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue-footed_booby
2. Blue-Footed Booby on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22696683/132588719

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