These birds are very distinctive and well-publicized due to their tell-tale sky-blue feet - but they are not the only boobies to live on the continent! Red-footed and Nazca boobies are also a wonderful “spot”.
Where can blue-footed boobies be found?
The best place to spot these unique creatures, however, is undoubtedly the Galapagos Islands, which has around half of the known global breeding pairs. Boobies are so prevalent on the Galapagos that they outnumber all other species of seabird on the islands.
What is the best way to see them?
The best place to see the blue-footed booby is in the Galapagos, and my favourite way to see wildlife here is while cruising around the archipelago on a specialized wildlife focused journey by sea.
You can join a small vessel on a wildlife cruise around the islands to see a wonderful array of creatures, or for total exclusivity why not charter a private yacht for you and your family or group of friends?
While your itinerary is fixed in advance due to strict National Park regulations, you can have the yacht to yourselves to relax as you wish in between shore excursions with your expert private guide.
If you have a particular fondness for photography, do let us know as many of these guides are also very experienced photographers themselves. There are often opportunities for a dive or two as well during the cruise for those who are experienced divers already.
Why does this species of booby have blue feet?
The most obviously noticeable feature of a blue-footed booby is of course the colour of its webbed feet. However a less well-known fact is that, due to a lack of patches of brooding skin on their underparts, the birds partially use their feet to incubate their eggs.
Due to the excellent blood supply to their feet the boobies can also use them to help keep the chicks warm post hatching - both on top of and under their feet.
Unlike some other species of birds, both the males and females look after the chicks (although the male is the better suited to inshore fishing) until the requirement to feed growing young necessitates both adults to fish simultaneously.
Male blue-footed boobies use their feet as an integral part of the mating ritual, which is carried out by lifting the feet up high as they strut around, so they can be seen more easily.
It is said that the darker the shade of blue, the more attractive to a female mate they will be. Recent research suggests that the hue is related to diet and therefore those with bluer feet are seen as healthier and better hunters.
What are the distinctive features of blue-footed boobies?
Apart from their blue feet, this species of booby is mainly brown, with a white rump, black tail and, often, gorgeous mottled brown neck feathers. The prominent beak is silvery blue. They are relatively large with adult birds measuring as much as 70 to 90 centimetres in height.
An average booby weighs around 1.5 kilograms; the females tend to be slightly bigger than the males. Most blue-footed boobies live for between 15 and 20 years.
What are the bird's habits?
Nesting on land, blue-footed boobies then fly out to sea during the day to catch their pray, which mainly consists of small fish. This is sometimes done in small, co-operative groups although boobies are excellent solitary fishers. Boobies are incredible divers and can swoop into the water with their wings pinned back from a height of 24 metres.
When fishing they will usually fly with their head/beak poised ready for “action” and, on diving, will enter the water leaving almost no splash and almost always with total accuracy. They are so adept that, unlike other boobies, they can also dive directly from a sitting position on the water's surface.
Since boobies are so well adapted for conditions out at sea they are more ungainly on land. It is this apparent unsteadiness on their feet that led early colonists to call them 'bobo' - the Spanish word for stupid or clown, the Anglicisation into “booby” being obvious!
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Posted by: Louise Mumford
Posted on: 24th August 2016
Read more: Posts about Latin America