Famous for its fascinating mating displays and distinctive blue feet, the blue-footed booby has caught the attention of humans for many years. While you may be familiar with their trademark brightly colored webbed feet, there is so much more to know about this amazing bird!
Appearance and Size
This seabird is most easily identified by its namesake bright blue feet, which are present only on adults of the species. The upper body of this bird is less striking, with brown feathers above and white below.
Immature birds can be identified by their mostly brown coloring, brown feet, and white mottling on the back.
This species of booby has a long, dark, dagger-like beak and pointed wings. Both the male and female of the species weigh anywhere from 3.3 lb to 4.8 lb and grow to be around 32 inches in length with a wingspan of just over 5 feet.
Where Does the Blue-Footed Booby Live?
The blue-footed booby can be found on the western coasts of Central and South America and on islands in the eastern Pacific. The Galapagos Islands are home to around half of the breeding pairs of these birds.
While sightings in the United States are rare, it’s possible to see these seabirds in coastal Southern California.
What Does the Blue-Footed Booby Sound Like?
Nesting males have a high, whistling call, while females produce a hoarse quack. While at sea, these birds rarely make any sound at all.
Diet and Feeding Habits
If you’re lucky enough to see a blue-foot catching a meal, you’ll see it plunge from great heights (up to 80 feet!) to dive deep into the water for its prey. These birds feed on small fish such as mackerel, sardines, flying fish, and squids. Female blue-footed boobies tend to catch larger fish and dive deeper than their male counterparts.
This seabird will eat discards from fishing boats, too, but they still dive into the water to do so.
While they typically dive and immediately ascend with their catch, this bird is also able to swim short distances underwater in pursuit of prey.
The blue-footed booby is non-migratory.
Blue-footed boobies occupy marine habitats and spend their lives near the coast. These birds tend to nest on rocky islands and come to shore or rocky areas near the shore to rest and perch.
Lifespan and Nesting/ Mating
Blue-footed boobies have a lifespan of around 17 years on average.
These birds carry out elaborate mating rituals that begin with the courting male presenting the female with a stick or stone.
The male will then march around the female with his head tilted back, whistling as he shows off the color of his feet. Males with brighter feet are considered more desirable mates.
This fascinating bird nests on the ground, laying eggs in a bowl-shaped scrape in sandy or rocky areas. They form a nest around the eggs with their guano, and both blue-footed booby parents take turns sitting on the eggs while the other hunts for food.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do the Blue-Footed Booby’s Feet Get Their Color?
There are a couple of reasons that these birds have such distinctive blue feet. First, their diet of fish is high in carotenoid pigments, which concentrate in the feet and give them their blue color.
This trait is also sexually selected because females prefer males whose feet are brighter in color.