Galapagos Blue-footed Booby

Galapagos blue-footed booby - an elegant monogamous fellow

Around 20,000 pairs of Galapagos blue-footed boobies (Sula nebouxii) live in the Galapagos Islands, which makes up half of the world’s blue-footed booby population. Blue-footed boobies can also be found in the Gulf of California, the west coast in Mexico, north of Peru and at the Ecuadorian coast, particularly in Isla de la Plata.

The blue-footed booby is a tropical seabird which is as large as a goose (around 80cm). It belongs to the genus of the Sula within the family of the boobies (Sulidae). Its name takes after the bird’s distinct blue feet and clumsy movement on land. However, do not be fooled, for the booby can fly and dive extremely well. The blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos Islands display a fearless attitude towards humans, even in close proximity of their nesting sites.

the blue-footed booby is the mascot of the Galapagos Islands
Galapagos Blaufußtölpel Pärchen beim Blick auf das Meer

Video: A courtship dance performed by a male booby

Habitat and Habits

The mating behaviour displayed by the blue-footed booby is extremely impressive and is probably one of the highlights of your Galapagos trip. The female boobies are extremely attracted to the strong blue feet of the males, which is a sign of sexual maturity.

An attempt to attract a female booby is as described:

A male booby strides up and down the nesting site proudly while displaying its blue feet. He occasionally lifts it highly or elegantly to show off to the females. A further attempt is made with him presenting the females with nesting materials and flapping its wings to show others his stature.

When the female is successfully courted, she will raise her beak and wings upwards to meet the male booby while he lets out a loud piercing celebratory whistle.

The blue-footed boobies are monogamous and faithful birds. Once together, they breed all year round in the Galapagos Islands. The female lays 2 to 3 eggs every eight months, 2 to 3 weeks after mating. The loving boobies then take turns to incubate the eggs for around 40 days. After hatching, the young birds can leave the nest after 100 days and reach sexual maturity after 3 to 4 years. Blue-footed boobies only feed on fishes and can dive up to 25 meters.

Species Protection

Currently, the Galapagos Islands is home to the largest blue-footed booby population with around 20,000 boobies. Those in the Galapagos Archipelago are all protected by the national park, allowing their nesting site to flourish and grow.

Travel advice for visitors:

Blue-footed boobies can almost be found on every island in the Galapagos archipelago and you can visit them on a cruise or through island hopping. However, the islands with the most blue-footed boobies are North Seymour and Santa Cruz islands. To plan your trip better, check out our Galapagos Islands monthly animal activities poster.

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