Nazca Booby Infanticide: Love Spelled Backwards is Evol-ution

My name is Felix Reyes and I am one of the two photographers aboard the Santa Cruz II Galapagos cruise. I recently began my job here and have come to witness remarkable things throughout the Enchanted Islands since I started. This is one of those experiences.

Nazca Booby Infanticide on Genovesa

It was another day on the beautiful island of Genovesa while we were busy exploring with our guests during our Northern Islands itinerary in Galapagos. It wasn’t long before we came upon a rather unsettling spectacle: an adult Nazca booby (member of our BIG15 group of iconic species in Galapagos) was standing right next to what appeared to be a lifeless Nazca booby chick on the ground, barely moving.

Nazca Booby Chick About To Die.
Nazca Booby Chick About To Die.

The optimist in me immediately saw this and assumed that the adult Nazca booby was there trying to help or even revive the chick in some way, but I was wrong. Rather than saving the chick from entering its proverbial “eternal slumber,” the adult Nazca booby was doing the complete opposite: it was trying to put the chick down for good.

I was taken aback even more when the adult jumped on top of the small chick in what I really hoped was some feeble attempt to resuscitate the heart of the little booby, but the chick remained immobile. It was when the adult started pecking at and stomping on the baby chick, and that’s when I knew something darker was afoot.

I immediately called over one of our Naturalist Guides to come and check out the scene unfolding before me. Once he came and saw, he somberly began telling me that, more than a chick and its parent, this was actually a victim of evolution and its winged executor. Part of me began to suffer as he explained that sometimes the adult Nazca booby will aim to kill their weaker, younger booby chicks in order to increase the chances of survival for its first chick.

Nazca Booby Infanticide On Genovesa Island.
An Example Of Natural Selection.

My heart broke right then and there as we looked on, no longer seeing an act of love so much as an act of natural and “necessary” evil in terms of evolution. It was no longer a mother trying to tend to her young so much as a mother trying to ward off competition for her younger, and presumably stronger, offspring. It is a rare act to see the parents partake in such behavior, as siblicide tends to be the more common mode of behavior with Nazca boobies.

Nazca Booby Infanticide: A Sliver of Hope Emerges

Watching the scene of Nazca booby infanticide unfold before us, there came a point where the adult finally seemed satisfied with its lethal “work” of stomping and pecking and finally walked off, leaving the presumably “dead” chick laying on the ground.

Nazca Booby Infanticide.
Nazca Booby Infanticide.

Our hearts nearly jumped out of our chests when we saw the chick’s head slowly look up and around, as if checking to see if the coast was clear. It would seem that the chick had endured the voiletn pummels and stomps of the adult Nazca booby and had been playing dead!

We all watched in disbelief as the little Nazca booby got up and hobbled away, clearly wounded from the attempted episode of Nazca booby infanticide. It was so sad to watch as the destiny of the Nazca booby chick remained unclear to us, but the moral of the scene was not: it’s clear that those who resist and persevere adequately against the wild and aggressive nature of, well nature itself, can literally take back what is theirs – their life – and do with it what they can. They are free.

Such is the unique and untamed beauty of nature at its purest in the Galapagos! This tiny Nazca booby chick had deceived and dodged its seemingly-cruel fate by means of its resilience and fierce tenacity to life.

“Now We Are Free”

I like to think that I will get to see this young Nazca booby on my next trip to Genovesa Island, flying elegant and pure, no longer with down feathers but full of beautiful adult feathers and life, fully deserving his place in the colony of Nazca boobies that live here.

Updated:May 9, 2023

Published:October 13, 2017


Machu Picchu & Galapagos Islands Tour 2024 Package: 12 days / Quito, Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu / From USD 9,598 per person



Condé Nast Traveler ONLINE

This small, secret rooftop of the restored Casa Gangotena mansion peers over Plaza San Francisco in the center of Quito’s colonial Old Town, the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Order a Cedrón Spritz, a refreshing mix of rum, lemon, sparkling wine, and fresh lemon verbena (cedrón) syrup and leaf, then revel in the mesmerizing, real-time montage of daily life in Ecuador’s capital as it parades past.

National Geographic Traveller

A Font of information, Klaus has spent decades in the field, leading tours in the Amazon, Andes and Galapagos Islands. He hung up his guiding boots a few years back and now creates itineraries for the tour operator, Metropolitan Touring. Adrift in the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from mainland South America, Galapagos is one of the most biodiverse locales on Earth.

Cruise Critic

Santa Cruz II is a replacement for the much-loved Santa Cruz, which plied the waters of the Galapagos for 36 years. It is not a new ship; it was built in 2002 and sailed as Mare Australis under the Australis cruise brand, operating expedition cruises around Cape Horn and to Antarctica. Metropolitan Touring bought the ship in 2015 and completely refurbished it, launching it as Santa Cruz II in October 2015.

Telegraph Ultra Travel: 50 Greatest Hotels in the World

When this modern, minimalist, glass-walled jungle lodge opened in 2012, it changed the accommodation game in South America. Arquitect Alfredo Ribadeneira’s “protective cocoon” would impress in a modern city; in the depths of an Andean cloudforest, it is wild, audacious and beautiful. Though only 70 miles from Quito, Maspi Lodge sits in splendid isolation, perched on a cliff at the end of an unsealed road.

Terms and Conditions

Itinerario de 5 días / 4 noches: Basado en la tarifa regular (4214 USD + impuestos por persona)
Itinerario de 7 días / 6 noches: Basado en la tarifa regular (5672 USD + impuestos por persona)
No reembolsable. Aplica únicamente para residentes ecuatorianos en nuevas reservas directas realizadas, hasta el 30 de junio del 2022, con un ejecutivo de ventas del hotel. Válido para estadías hasta el 31 de agosto de 2022. No puede ser combinada con otros descuentos, promociones u ofertas. El descuento no aplica para otros servicios. El precio no incluye recargo de combustible de $20 por noche de crucero.

We have what you are looking for!