Photo: Blue-footed booby in the Galápagos Islands

Not just attractive physical features, the blue feet of this booby can be used to cover its chicks and keep them warm.

Photograph by Tim Laman

Map

Map: Blue footed booby range

Blue-Footed Booby Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Bird
Diet:
Carnivore
Average life span in the wild:
17 years
Size:
32 to 34 in (80 to 85 cm); Wingspan, nearly 5 ft (1.5 m)
Weight:
3.25 lbs (1.5 kg)
Group name:
Flock
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Blue footed booby compared with adult man

Blue-footed boobies are aptly named, and males take great pride in their fabulous feet. During mating rituals, male birds show off their feet to prospective mates with a high-stepping strut. The bluer the feet, the more attractive the mate.

These boobies live off the western coasts of Central and South America. The Galápagos Islands population includes about half of all breeding pairs of blue-footed boobies.

Like other boobies, blue-foots nest on land at night. When day breaks, they take to the air in search of seafood, sometimes fishing in cooperative groups. They may fly far out to sea while keeping a keen eye out for schools of small fish, such as anchovies. When their prey is in sight, these seabirds utilize the physical adaptations that make them exceptional divers. They fold their long wings back around their streamlined bodies and plunge into the water from as high as 80 feet (24 meters). Blue-footed boobies can also dive from a sitting position on the water's surface.

Blue-footed boobies also use their webbed feet to cover their young and keep them warm. When a typical brood of one to three chicks hatches, both parents feed and care for them.

All half-dozen or so booby species are thought to take their name from the Spanish word "bobo." The term means "stupid," which is how early European colonists may have characterized these clumsy and unwary birds when they saw them on land—their least graceful environment.

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