Posted by: atowhee | December 28, 2017


Stephanie Arnow of Sonoma shares even more pictures from the Atlantic edge of Brazil:  “Red Footed Booby Rookerie on Fernando de Noronha.  The picture of the beach is what’s directly below their nests which are scattered in the trees on along the slopes and top of the cliffs- a pretty big drop unless you can fly!”DSC_0858DSC_0881DSC_0921DSC_0928DSC_0958DSC_0964Over much of the U.S. except Hawaii this group of birds is not often seen.  The boobies are among nine species in the family Sulidae. The largest species in the family are called gannets.  Sulidae range the world’s oceans.  They breed on isolated islands and cliffs so they evolved to have little fear of land animals so were too tame and friendly when encountering humans.  They were easily killed and eaten so gained the name for being a stupid bird, “booby.”

The Sulidae share the order Pelicaniformes with a range of other large water-centric birds: cormorants, pelicans, frigatebirds, and tropicbirds. The Red-footed Booby’s scientific binomial is Sula sula.  The adults; wingspan may exceed three feet and a grown bird will weight almost two pounds. They are over two feet long. The Red-footed is the smallest member of this family of birds.  In the wild a booby may live 20 years, after surviving the first year.

This species breeds in the Caribbean, south Atlantic, Indian and tropical sectors of the Pacific Ocean.  They are colonial nesters.  Nests may be on trees or cliff faces or on the ground.  The male and female often mate for numerous years and share all nesting and feeding duties.  Each season this species generally lays a single egg which is incubated about 45 days before hatching. The nestlings don’t begin to fly until they are about three months old.  Then it takes up to two more months before they begin to follow adults to sea.

The boobies plunge dive like brown pelicans and may go fifty feet or more below the surface.  Here is part of National Geographic’s description of these birds: “Red-footed boobies are strong flyers and can travel up to 93 miles in search of food. They often hunt in large groups, and are nimble enough to snare flying fish from the air. Boobies are well adapted for diving and feature long bills, lean and aerodynamic bodies, closeable nostrils, and long wings which they wrap around their bodies before entering the water.”

They catch and eat fish and squid.  They may also stroll in shallow water hunting like a heron.

Some boobies and gannets are among the world’s best guano producers.  Guano-mining for fertilizer disturbs the nesting colony.  Abbott’s Booby which now nests only on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean is critically endangered.

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