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Blue Footed Booby

THE GALAPAGOS BLUE FOOTED BOOBY

he curious blue footed booby is one of the most emblematic creatures of the Galapagos Islands, due to the peculiar blue color of its legs. 

This coastal seabird is usually seen on beaches but not very close to them. It usually flies and glides quite high. It breeds very locally, forming colonies on islands in the open sea, nesting on the ground. Blue footed boobies are birds, which surely attract the interest of tourists who want to take pictures from all angles! 

Although blue footed boobies are not endemic to the Galapagos Islands, they are one of the most famous birds of the islands. These boobies are native to the tropical regions of the Pacific Ocean and are one of six species of boobies.

blue footed booby dance
blue footed booby dance

Their name comes from the Spanish word «bobo», which means foolish or clown, in reference to their clumsy movements on land and because of how tame they are. However, despite their clumsiness on the ground, blue-footed boobies are extremely agile in the air. 

Early in the morning, they take flight in search of their prey. Once at sea, the booby folds its wings, giving it a more aerodynamic shape, and dives into the water. Dives can occur at more than 20 meters, and the bird hits the water at speeds of up to 100 km/h, catching fish with its serrated bill. 

Blue-footed boobies generally forage for food in large groups of up to 200 birds. Their preferred food is anchovies and sardines. But in recent years there has been a reduction of these fish, resulting in the decline of the blue-footed booby population. 

In Galapagos, in the 1960s there were an estimated 20,000 birds, but by 2012 this number had been reduced to approximately 6,400. Nevertheless, boobies remain a fairly large population in Galapagos, and can be seen in several locations. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified this species in «Least Concern» status. 

THE BLUE FOOTED BOOBY CHARACTERISTICS

  • COMMON NAME: Blue-Footed Booby
  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Sula nebouxii
  • TYPE: Birds
  • DIET: Carnivore
  • GROUP NAME: Flock
  • AVERAGE LIFESPAN IN THE WILD: 17 years
  • SIZE: 32 to 34 inches; wingspan: nearly 5 feet
  • WEIGHT: 3.25 poundsAPPEARANCE: Its plumage is brown on top, with a white rump and black tail, while the underparts are white and its legs are uniquely blue.
A blue-footed booby stands on a rock in Española Island, which is part of the Galápagos Islands.
A blue-footed booby stands on a rock in Española Island, which is part of the Galápagos Islands.

THE CUTEST BLUE BOOBY INTERESTING FACTS

  • The unique color of boobies’ legs is due to the carotenoid pigments in their concentrated diet of sardines. Therefore, the color of their legs reflects their good health. 
  • Males and females are very similar, however females are slightly larger and have darker blue legs.
  • In males, the brighter the blue color of the legs, the more reproductive success they can have.
  • To reproduce, females select males with brighter feet, as they are an indicator of their general condition and, therefore, of the quality of their genes.
  • Female boobies lay between two and three eggs per year. Both the female and the male take care of the nest for about 45 days and feed the chicks together, by regurgitation, for about two months.
  • It breeds very locally, forming colonies on islands in the open sea, nesting on the ground. 

Blue-footed boobies breathe through the corners of their beaks, because their nostrils are permanently attached for diving.

BLUE FOOTED BOOBY BEHAVIOR

The blue-footed boobies take place during the mating season in the cold seasons, between June and August. Without a doubt, the courtship ritual is one of the most fun to witness. The male begins by presenting a rock or branch to the female as a gift. He then tilts his beak, tail and wingtips skyward, whistles and marches around the female in a high-stepping motion, showing off his feet. 

Once they have bonded as a pair, they usually remain attached for life. Boobies lack a brood patch and use their large feet to keep the eggs warm. The eggs hatch after about 45 days and the chicks are fed regurgitated fish by both parents. Young boobies remain with their parents for about two months. 

Blue-footed boobies are very tame and friendly birds, they are not afraid of humans, that is why these birds are one of the most loved by visitors. But it is important to emphasize that even though they are tame, boobies are still wild birds. It is necessary to keep a distance of at least 1 meter and respect them.

WHERE TO SEE BLUE FOOTED BOOBYS?

WHERE TO SEE BLUE FOOTED BOOBYS IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Blue-footed boobies are one of the most common birds to see in the archipelago. One of the best spots to see them are the North Seymour and Española islands. Here, visitors can get very close to them, as trails pass in front of the boobies’ nests, offering visitors a unique experience to appreciate these tender and fascinating birds. It is also possible to see the boobies in Fernandina, Floreana, Isabela and Santa Cruz.
These beautiful birds are waiting for you! Come on one of our tours (4) and get to know all the wonders of the Galapagos Islands and don’t miss the opportunity to take a great picture with the blue-footed booby!

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