Blue-footed Booby Facts

The Blue-footed Booby is one of the strangest birds in Galapagos and is the most commonly seen species of booby living on the Islands.  Keep reading for some interesting facts about these odd characters!


Latin Name:  Sula Nebouxii

Courting Boobies © jacintha castora photography   

Etymology:  The origin of the English name "Booby" is thought to originate from "Bobo", the Spanish word for clown. This name was given to the birds due to their comical and somewhat ungainly behaviour when manoeuvring on land.  They were also thought of as foolish due to their fearlessness of humans and that they could be caught whilst sleeping!


Life span:  15 - 20 years 


Size:  Blue-footed Boobies are large birds reaching 70 - 90cm in height and with a wing span of up to 1.5m.  They are pretty slender, weighing in at only 1.5kg with females generally being slightly larger than the males.


Colouring:  The upper part of the body is mainly brown with a white rump, black tail and a silvery grey beak.  Of course these birds are most famous for their bright blue feet - there is a spectrum of shades with males and youngsters generally exhibiting lighter, brighter feet than females.  Mystery surrounds the reasons for these bright blue feet but the blueness definitely plays an important part in courting.  Recent research indicates that the colour of the male's feet may be linked to diet and therefore indicate his condition.  Females are likely to select for mates with brighter feet to ensure that their offspring inherit genes from a strong male in good condition.


Distribution:  The Blue-footed Booby may be found in several locations on the Eastern Pacific coastline usually nesting on small islands with rocky coastlines (most famously in Galapagos)! 


Diet:  Strictly a carnivorous marine bird, all feeding is done at sea.  At dawn, boobies can be seen setting out to look for shoals of small fish such as sardines, anchovies or flying fish in the surrounding shallow waters.  They often dive 'en masse' at up to 60mph from over 20m height, catching their breakfast in their serrated bills.  Their nostrils are permanently closed making them excellent divers as they can swim underwater easily.  Special air sacs in their skulls also protect their brains from the high impact of such mammoth dives. 


Blue-footed Boobies © GCT

Reproduction: During the mating season (June to August), the booby performs an elaborate mating dance unmatched by other seabird species, which starts when the male gives the female a small stone or stick.  He then tips his beak, tail, and wing tips to the sky and whistles.  They slowly march around each other and display their bright blue feet for hours.  When a match has been made, booby couples are often monogamous.  Each couple lay about two or three eggs and they take about 45 days to hatch.  Courting Boobies © jacintha castora photographyDuring this time, the proud parents take it in turn to incubate the eggs or keep watch for predators.  Baby boobies stay with their parents for two months although it takes 2- 3 years to obtain full adult plumage. 


Population:  It is estimated that there are currently 20,000 breeding pairs in Galapagos although research is indicating that reproductive success is closely linked to climate events such as 'El Nino' affecting sea surface temperatures and ocean productivity.  

Blue-footed Booby chick © jacintha castora photography

Booby cousins:  Galapagos is also home to two other species of booby bird, the Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) and the Nazca Booby (Sula granti).  Competition between the species is limited by adapting to different nesting and feeding grounds.  The Red-footed Booby is the smallest of the three and is the only species to nest in trees.  They also exploit fishing grounds further out to sea than their cousins minimising competition.  The Nazca Booby is the largest of the three and nests in large colonies near the coastline in close proximity to Blue-footed Boobies.  This sharing of resources allows these and the other 16 species of Galapagos seabird to coexist peacefully.


To help protect these lovable birds and their surrounding habitat, please make a donation towards Blue-footed Booby Day.  It's as simple as sending a text, just send 'BFBD11 £2' (or any amount up to £10) to 70070. Thank you for your support!