The Galapagos Blue Footed Booby

The Blue Footed Booby in the Galapagos Islands are absolutely intriguing to watch.
The more one watches, the more fascinating behaviour these birds display. The name booby is from the Spanish term ‘bobo’ which translates to ‘stupid’, ‘fool’ or ‘clown’.

Clowns they are, strutting round, so proud of their striking aqua feet, diving from great heights into schools of fish, and whistling provocatively at the sexy she-birds. A male Blue-footed Booby needs to know how to use his feet as his courtship consists of flaunting his blue feet and dancing to impress the female.

Galapagos Islands Ecuador

Courting…

During the dance, he provocatively spreads his wings and stamps his feet on the ground, then lifts them high, throwing their heads up, making a high pitched whistling noise. The brightness of the males’ feet is highly dependent on access to food and the coloration is extremely sensitive, with change in colour noticed by the females without 48 hours.

Blue-footed boobies are monogamous, although they can potentially turn bigamous if the opportunity presents itself. Men, aye? The pairs reunite at their breeding grounds, reignite their passion for each other, and start to breed.

The breeding cycle of the booby is every 8 to 9 months. The blue-footed booby is not a seasonally reproducing species. But instead is a relatively opportunistic breeder; if the resources and food are scarce, the cycle may extend, or if resouces are abundant, they may breed sooner.

But the mating process doesn’t stop with the dancing and whistling. As the courtship continues, the male will pick up a stick in its beak and present it to the female as a symbol of his desire to mate and build a nest with her.

On another island, we actually saw this happen, and it was as cute as it sounds, and as a naturalist said he’s giving her a wee present!

After the Boobies consumate their relationship, the female lays 1 to 3 eggs, which take about 40 days to hatch.

Galapagos Islands Ecuador

Nesting is shared by male and female…

Both parents take turns caring for the eggs and chicks.

If the female is keeping them warm in the nest, then the male is either keeping watch or fishing for food.

Blue Footed Boobies can hit the water at speeds of up to 60mph and dive as deep as 25 meters, to catch fish, something we witnessed in which the booby caught an oversized fish just metres away from where we were snorkelling.

Galapagos Islands Ecuador

Experience of a lifetime… booby trying to eat an oversize fish…

Throughout the day, they turn in a circle to ensure they’re consistently facing the sun. As a result, the perimeter of their nest is marked by a circle of white guaro (excrement).

While much more common with Red Footed Boobies, occasionally the first born (and therefore stronger) chick will kill the second or third born to ensure more food, and therefore, increase his/her chances of survival.

If food is scarce, the parents may choose to feed the strongest chick, therefore ensuring the premature death of the others, however greatly improving the odds at least one chick will survive.

Observing the mating, nesting and feeding habits of Blue Footed Boobies in the wild was certainly  one of my highlights from the Galapagos Islands along with marine iguana watching!

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