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Last updated date: 18th May 2024
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Booby Bird

The family Sulidae includes six or seven species of large tropical seabirds known as boobies (order Pelecaniformes or Suliformes). Their length ranges from 65 to 85 cm (25–35 inches). The Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans are home to the red-footed booby (S. dactylatra) and the masked, or blue-faced booby (S. dactylatra). The blue-footed booby (S. nebouxii) can be found in the Pacific, from southern California to northern Peru, as well as on the Galápagos Islands. Boobies have long bills, cigar-shaped bodies, and long, short, and angular wings. They hunt for schools of fish and squid by flying high over the water. When they see prey, they dive headfirst into the water in a vertical drop.

Boobies build their nests in colonies, but they have a great awareness of territory. To protect the individual's territory inside the large breeding colony, many ritualized displays are used. The male performs an elaborate dance in which his feet alternately lift and lower several times, accompanied by a motion known to ornithologists as sky-pointing. The eggs, which are normally two in number, are laid in a rudimentary nest on the ground. Boobies were easily killed by early mariners, who called them boobies to denote their supposed lack of intelligence.

Though boobies are historically classified in the order Pelecaniformes, some taxonomists believe that they (and related gannets) should be classified in the order Suliformes, alongside cormorants (family Phalacrocoracidae), darters (family Anhingidae), and frigate birds (family Fregatidae) based on genetic evidence.

What is a Booby Bird?

The word "bobo" comes from the Spanish word "foolish." The blue-footed booby isn't a particularly stupid bird – birds, in general, are incredibly intelligent – but it does have a peculiar way of walking on the ground. Blue-footed boobies move about with a wobbling waddle that is similar to the shuffle associated with penguins. To early explorers, this made the bird seem childish, clownish, or at the very least clumsy. The common name of Sula nebouxii has little to do with a portion of the mammalian anatomy.

Female blue-footed boobies are slightly larger than males, but this isn't the easiest way to distinguish the two sexes because the difference is so small. The size and shape of a female's pupils may be used to distinguish her from a male. Males' pupils are tiny and round. Females, on the other hand, have bigger, star-shaped eyes. Males have more yellow colouring in their irises than females, but all genders have yellow eyes. While males use their prominent blue feet to attract females in mating dances, blue feet are found in both genders.

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Six Species of Booby

While the six species of booby are similar in size and appearance, they have distinct characteristics that differentiate them. The blue-footed booby, red-footed booby, brown booby, Peruvian booby, masked booby, and Nazca booby are the six species.

The most well-known is the blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii), which can be found in the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador. These birds are distinguished by their bright blue feet, as the name implies. They are the second-largest species of booby. Females have bigger feet and are more likely to have brighter coloured feet than males.

The red-footed booby (Sula sula) is slightly smaller than the blue-footed booby (Sula sula) and has bright red feet. It can be found all over the world, from the Galapagos Islands to the Caribbean. When diving to catch a fish, this bird is a fast flier who can hit incredible speeds. The highest reported speed is 60 miles per hour!

The masked booby is the largest of the booby species (Sula dactylatra). This bird can grow to nearly a metre in height and can be found from the Caribbean islands to Australia.

On islands in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the Nazca booby (Sula granti) can be found. Its feet aren't as brightly coloured like those of its counterparts. Instead, its white body and bright yellow or orange beak distinguish it.

Black boobies (Sula leucogaster) have a chocolate brown body with white bellies and central underwings. Their bills are pale, and their feet are bright yellow. They are sometimes found near the shore and forage in very shallow or murky waters.

Although the Peruvian booby (Sula variegata) is native to Peru, it can also be found in parts of Chile. It is Peru's second most common seabird. It does not have the same level of appearance as the other animals.

Feeding Adaptations

Boobies spend the majority of their time at sea as seabirds and have honed their skills at foraging for fish in the ocean. Boobies have a history of being excellent divers. They search by performing surprise dive attacks into the ocean from great heights. Boobies will dive from a height of 100 metres above the water to a depth of 15 metres below the surface. This is made possible by a number of special adaptations that these birds possess.

The first thing you find about a booby is how streamlined it is. It has a slender body and long, narrow wings. When a bird sees its prey, it folds its wings over its body and dives headfirst into the water in a vertical drop.

Second, you'll find that the booby's bill is completely devoid of nostrils. Since the nose is concealed underneath the upper mandible, water is prevented from entering the bird's trachea when it dives.

Internal airbags and a third transparent eyelid are also features of boobies. The air sacs on the bird's face and chest are located under the skin and provide a cushion to protect the internal organs when it hits the water. The nictitating membrane, or third eyelid, protects the eye from impact by stretching over the eye just before a booby enters the water.


Boobies, like many other seabirds, are colonial birds. They build their nests in groups that can be very big and crowded. They typically mate for several years with the same partner. Despite the fact that they live in colonies, boobies can be territorial. They'll use elaborate displays, such as head nodding and jabbing, to defend their territory within the large breeding colony. Displays are also a part of courtship. The males will perform ritualized dances that include whistling and lifting their feet, among other things. The birds alternately raise and lower their feet, accompanied by a motion known to ornithologists as sky pointing. The birds spread their wings horizontally and raise their heads before emitting a long whistle while sky pointing. Mating will occur if the female is fascinated by the male's display. The average number of eggs laid by booby birds is one to three. The incubation period is four to five weeks long.

Behavioral Isolation

The elaborate courtship rituals mentioned previously are an example of behavioural isolation as well as a means of attracting a partner. Behavioral separation, also known as ethological isolation, occurs when two populations are capable of interbreeding but do not do so due to discrepancies in courtship rituals. Audio signals such as breeding calls, visual cues such as mating dances, and olfactory signals such as pheromones are all used in courtship rituals. Differences in these signals are what distinguishes the organisms.

Their elaborate courtship rituals distinguish them from closely related species. Consider the booby bird as an example. The six booby bird species overlap, and most of them share the same habitat. Their different mating rituals help them find the right mating partner and keep them from mating with other species.

Behavioral separation ensures that the bird does not waste time looking for, courting, and mating with a mate who will not yield fertile offspring by avoiding inbreeding. Since producing fertile offspring is essential for the survival of a species, behavioural isolation is an important biological mechanism.

Blue-Footed Booby

The blue-footed booby, like all boobies, feeds entirely on aquatic sources. Anchovies, sardines, and other small pelagic fishes, as well as the occasional squid, are the preferred prey of this species. Blue-footed boobies are associated with cold, highly productive areas where deep water upwells to the surface because these prey species thrive there. Blue-footed boobies catch their prey by diving into surface waters at high speeds and pursuing it underwater. Squadrons of boobies target large numbers of schooling fish, and this behaviour is common in groups.

Blue-footed boobies, like all seabirds, build their nests on land, typically on small islands near their feeding grounds. Male blue-footed boobies are known for their courtship moves, in which they make very precise gestures in order to attract females. Once a female has chosen a male, the couple will be monogamous for at least the breeding season. After mating, both parents take turns incubating clutches of two to three eggs laid directly on the ground. A large breeding colony is formed when many breeding pairs nest together. After the chicks hatch, both parents must continue to care for them, which necessitates regular feeding trips. This may explain why the nesting sites are so close to feeding areas. The first chick to emerge receives the majority of the attention from the parents and is frequently the only chick to survive.

On land, blue-footed boobies have no natural predators, and at sea, they have few natural predators. Additionally, they are naturally curious. As a result, they are rarely alarmed when approached by people on land, and they often land on boats to investigate people when at sea. Blue-footed boobie populations are stable, and the species is usually regarded as a species of least concern. Overfishing of their favoured prey species, on the other hand, may decrease population sizes in the future, and ongoing scientific research and monitoring of population patterns would ensure that any negative changes are detected early and dealt with accordingly.

Nests of Booby Bird

Boobies build their nests out of earth directly on the bare ground. They then cover their nests with a layer of guano, which is made up of their own droppings. Baby blue-footed boobies are born into these nests and are kept warm by their parents, who cover the nestlings with their big blue feet.

Unlike certain other bird species, boobies don't have a bare patch on their bellies called a "brooding patch. Mothers and fathers collaborate to care for their nest, which usually produces one to three chicks. Blue-footed boobies have huge colonies where they lay their eggs. Before their eggs arrive, nesting pairs can build up to three nests before settling on one. The eggs are a light blue colour.

Systematics and Evolution

Mathurin Jacques Brisson, a French zoologist, first described the genus Sula in 1760. The brown booby is the type species. The name comes from the Old Norse and Icelandic word sla, which refers to the other member of the Sulidae family, the gannet. Since these tame birds had a habit of landing on board sailing ships, where they were quickly caught and eaten, the English name "booby" was likely derived from the Spanish slang word bobo, which means "stupid." As a result, boobies are often reported as being captured and eaten by shipwrecked sailors, including William Bligh of the Bounty and his crew during their famous voyage after being set adrift by Fletcher Christian and his followers.

The genus Sula is home to six of the ten extant Sulidae species known as boobies, while the genus Morus is home to the three gannet species. Abbott's booby was formerly classified as part of the Sula family, but it is now classified as a monotypic genus called Papasula, which represents an ancient lineage possibly related to Morus. Some experts believe that in Sula, all ten species should be considered congeneric. Osteology, on the other hand, can easily differentiate them. Since at least the Middle Miocene, distinct lineages of gannets and boobies have been known to exist in this type.

Many fossil species have simply not been found yet, as most localities are in continental North America or Europe, probably because boobie species were less abundant in the late Miocene to Pliocene, when gannets had their greatest diversity, or because of the more tropical distribution of boobies, as many fossil species have simply not been found yet, as most localities are in continental North America or Europe.


  • Blue-footed Boobies defecate on their feet to keep cool in extremely hot conditions (a behaviour called urohydrosis). They also flutter the skin of their throats (the gular pouch) by rapidly vibrating the bones in their throats, causing evaporative cooling through their open mouth.

  • The strength of the blue colour on the Blue-footed Booby's feet varies. Birds with brighter blue feet tend to have a better chance of finding a mate than those with duller blue feet. One research examined the relationship between foot colour and the health of young chicks and discovered that the healthiest chicks had fathers with deeply blue feet, likely indicating the father's ability to keep himself well-fed. While humans may find the famous mating show amusing, the display of foot colour provides vital information about a bird's health and ability to care for its young.

  • The Blue-footed Booby doesn't build a nest and instead lays its eggs on the ground. The eggs are surrounded by a circular wall of excrement produced by the incubating birds defecating in the nest.


The booby is a big seabird with a similar relationship to the gannet. The birds' name comes from the Spanish word "bobo," which means "foolish" or "clown," probably due to their clumsy and ungraceful appearance on land. When it comes to flight, the booby is anything but sloppy. These nimble birds spend their days at sea foraging for small fish like anchovies and sardines. They like to feed in groups, which can number up to 200 birds. They, unlike many other seabirds, return to land at night to lay their eggs. Boobies come in six different varieties and can be found along the coasts of Central and South America, as well as on tropical islands in the southeastern Pacific. There are few natural predators for these species. Adult booby chicks are too big for owls and large birds of prey to snatch. Humans are the primary threat to these species, though they are sometimes eaten by sharks.

FAQs on Booby

1. What are the Six Species of Booby Birds?

Ans: This seabird has six different species. They are all members of the Sula genus. There are some of them:

  • Blue-footed booby

  • Masked booby

  • Brown booby

  • Red-footed booby

  • Peruvian booby

  • Nazca booby

2. What Does the Booby Bird Eat?

Ans: Fish such as anchovies, sardines, and mackerel, as well as squid, are eaten by this bird. Female booby birds will dive deeper into the ocean than their male. As a result, they can consume fish that are larger than those caught by males.

3. How Did the Booby Bird Get Its Name?

Ans: The name was given to them by Spanish sailors who came across them on the Galapagos Islands' shores. When these sailors noticed the sea bird's clumsy movements, they dubbed it "bobo." The term bobo refers to a clown or a fool.