RED-FOOTED BOOBY

RED-FOOTED BOOBY (Sula sula) Indigenous
DESCRIPTION: The Red-footed Booby is a large mainly white seabird with black flight feathers. The bill is light blue with some pink at the base. The throat pouch is blue. There is a partial blue circle around the eye. Juveniles are washed out brown, and the chicks are white with a black bill. Sexes are similar. This booby measures about 28 inches (69 cm) long.
NAME: The English name ‘Booby’ is from the Spanish word ‘bobo’, which means ‘stupid’. The bird was thus called because it is unafraid of humans. The French name ‘Fou à pieds rouges’ reflects this trait as well. The Latin genus name ‘Sula’ comes from Norwegian and means ‘gannet’, and the second Latin name ‘sula’ is the species name.
HABITAT: Coastal areas and small islands in tropical and sub-tropical oceans.
DIET: Small fish and squid that swim near the surface. This booby dive-bombs at high speed from the air to catch its prey. It then swallows it before flying instead of carrying it in its bill. This makes it much harder for a kleptoparasite species such as the Great Frigatebird to steal their prey.
NESTING: Breeds in colonies along the coast or on small islands near the coast. Courtship by the male includes sky-pointing, where it points its bill vertically toward the sky. The nest is not built on the ground, rather in a tree or shrub. Only one white egg is laid, which is incubated by both parents.
DISTRIBUTION: This species of booby is found in the tropical and sub-tropical seas around the world.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/explore?query=red-footed+booby
CONSERVATION: The population of the Red-footed booby was estimated at around 1 million in 2016. (See ABC reference below). Red-footed boobies are still hunted for food in some areas, and their population is in decline. They compete with the fishing industry for the same species of fish. Habitat loss to coastal development is another negative factor. In spite of these threats the bird is still listed as of ‘least concern’ by the IUCN.
NOTES: The Red-footed booby is part of the same family as the gannets. These are seabirds that dive at high speed from the air to catch fish near the surface. They can even catch flying fish in the air. What these birds gain in flight power they lose when walking on the ground, where they’re clumsy. Red-footed boobies come in many color variations, which are not related to their territories. This bird will follow ships at sea and land on them.
The Rabbit Island (or Manana Island) partly seen on a photo below is one of a few small islands off the eastern shore of Oahu, and they are protected State seabird sanctuaries. Species that breed there include Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Sooty Terns, Red-Tailed Tropicbirds, and Brown Noddys.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Northern Gannet, Masked Booby
REFERENCES: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-footed_Booby/overview
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-footed_booby
https://abcbirds.org/bird/red-footed-booby/
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/r/red-footed-booby/
https://www.arkive.org/red-footed-booby/sula-sula/
https://www.fws.gov/refuge/kilauea_point/wildlife_and_habitat/Red-footed_Booby.html

Red-footed Booby - Tubbataha Reef National Park, Philippines - photo by Gregg Yan, 2012
Red-footed Booby – Tubbataha Reef National Park, Philippines – photo by Gregg Yan, 2012
Red-footed Boobies flying toward Makapu'u - © Denise Motard
Red-footed Boobies flying toward Makapu’u – © Denise Motard
Red-footed Booby in flight over Half Moon Caye, Belize - photo by Eowes
Red-footed Booby in flight over Half Moon Caye, Belize – photo by Eowes
Red-footed Boobies in front of Rabbit Island - Makapu'u, Oahu - © Denise Motard
Red-footed Boobies in front of Rabbit Island – Makapu’u, Oahu – © Denise Motard
Red-footed Booby in flight, top view - Kilauea Lighthouse, Kauai - photo by Dick Daniels
Red-footed Booby in flight, top view – Kilauea Lighthouse, Kauai – photo by Dick Daniels
Red-footed Boobies off Makai Research Stn in front of Rabbit Island, toward Makapu'u - Oahu, HI - © Denise Motard
Red-footed Boobies off Makai Research Stn in front of Rabbit Island, toward Makapu’u – Oahu, HI – © Denise Motard

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