Interesting facts about the three types of boobies in the Galapagos

The Three Types of Boobies in the Galapagos

Before you begin your Galapagos vacation, you can get acquainted with the animals that you must see in the Islands. While most people might think that you can’t miss the Giant Tortoise or the Marine Iguana, there are a few birds that you might consider adding to the list, specifically, those that you can only find in the Galapagos Islands, like boobies.

If you’ve ever wondered why they chose to call a bird species, “boobies”, the term was taken from the Spanish word “bobo”, which translates to clumsy. This was because it referred to the comical way that boobies walk. Though you can find three types of boobies in the Galapagos Islands, it’s fairly easy to distinguish them thanks to their distinctive colors. These interesting and mesmerizing creatures can be seen all around the archipelago and are definitely worth the trip to the Enchanted Isles. Here we have rounded up the most interesting facts about each of the boobies in the Galapagos.

Remember that some of these boobies can only be spotted on certain islands in the Archipelago. A Galapagos cruise is the best way to guarantee that you’ll see the red-footed, blue-footed, and Nazca boobies on the same trip

Red-footed Booby

Galapagos Red-Footed Booby Standing On A Branch
Red-Footed Boobies Can Be Spotted On Genovesa And At Punta Pitt On San Cristobal Island

The red-footed booby (Sula sula) is actually the smallest of the boobies in the Galapagos Islands but it makes up for its small size with its magnificent skill in both air and water. Red-footed boobies are capable of covering a distance of up to 93 miles (150 km) while flying over the ocean, but they are also very skillful at pursuing prey in the water. Thanks to their powerful sight and amazing diving ability, they can catch virtually any fish while diving up to 130 ft (40 m) underwater.

When these boobies spot fish from above, their iconic, red webbed feet allow them to swim at even faster speeds and propel themselves underwater. Unlike other web-footed animals, red-footed boobies actually perch on Galapagos flora, the same way birds with separate digits do. Red-footed boobies in the Galapagos can be spotted on Genovesa Island (Northern Itinerary) and at Punta Pitt on San Cristobal Island (Eastern Itinerary).

Blue-footed Booby

Blue-Footed Boobies Courtship Dance
Blue-Footed Boobies Are Monogamous Creatures And Opportunistic Breeders.

Blue-footed boobies (Sula nebouxii) are perhaps the most popular type of booby thanks to their bright and colorful turqoise feet. Their very selective diet gives them this distinctive hue. Although many people are mesmerized by the color of their feet, this aspect is actually a much more important part of the blue-footed boobies’ mating ritual. The more turquoise the feet, the more attractive the male will be to the female. Their charming courtship ritual involves a peculiar dance in which the male showcases each foot alternately. The female usually responds to the dance by mirroring the male’s movements. Still, their mating ritual doesn’t stop there. Blue-footed boobies will clack their bills, whistle, grunt, and continue with the dance until the female agrees to mate or turns around and leaves, in the search of more turquoise feet.

Blue-footed boobies are also known for their amazing ability in water and air. They are capable of spotting small fish (such as sardines, anchovies, and mackerel) from high up in the air and then diving at a speed of up to 60 mph (96.5 kph).

As blue-footed boobies have evolved in the Galapagos Islands without the presence of predators, these animals, like most in the archipelago, are unafraid of human visitors. You can see blue-footed boobies on almost every island of the Galapagos.

Nazca Booby

Nazca Booby Standing On A Rock
Nazca Boobies Can Be Seen On Genovesa, Floreana, And Española Islands In The Galapagos Archipelago

Similar in appearance to their cousin, the masked booby, the Nazca booby (Sula granti) is the largest of all three boobies in the Galapagos. They can be identified by their very white plumage, black-tipped feathers, and orange beak. But what really makes this booby the most interesting of the three found in the Galapagos, is its obligate siblicide. This means that as Nazca boobies often lay two eggs, a couple of days apart. One of the hatchlings usually kicks the other out of the nest in order to avoid competing for food. This leaves the smaller and weaker chick to starve and eventually die.

Nazca boobies are also prey to the most baffling of parasitic tendencies: vampire finches. These creatures have developed a knack for pecking away at Nazca boobies in search of parasites, ultimately feeding on the blood of these boobies. This type of behavior manifests when alternative sources of food are scarce.

Updated:May 22, 2023

Published:November 26, 2019


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