Birdwatchers rated the Blue-footed Booby the most popular bird species on the Galapagos Islands in an unscientific preference poll.
By Rex Graham
Here are the results so far:
- 9% Blue-footed Booby
- 4% Galapagos Penguin
- 3% Waved Albatross
Remaining votes went to the Large Cactus-finch, Glyphorhynchus race of American Flamingo, Magnificent Frigatebird, Red-billed Tropicbird and Flightless Cormorant.
Blue-footed Booby Courtship Strut
The Blue-footed Booby is a sleek and efficient predator of sardines, anchovies and mackerel. It even picks flying fish right out of the air. The clumsy-looking high-stepping courtship performances don’t reflect this bird’s aerial agility.
The blueness of a Blue-footed Booby’s feet comes from a fish-derived carotenoid pigment in their diet. It’s an immune chemical that subdues pathogens, and a powerful signal to potential mates of health and fitness.
The bluer a male’s high-stepping courtship strut, the more attractive he is to the ladies. On the flip side, males prefer females with the bluest feet.
Half of Blue-footed Boobies on Galapagos
The preference of bird lovers for this species is appropriate because half of all Blue-footed Boobies breed on the Galapagos Islands. Its relatives are the Red-footed, Nazca, Brown, Abbott’s, Masked and Peruvian Boobies. All boobies are in the Sulidae family with Gannets, one of the few bird families adapted to dive head-first into water.
Blue-footed Booby females lay two eggs about five days apart in colonies. The parents use their like heaters to incubate the eggs. The first-hatched chick is always the bigger, more dominant sibling. It sometimes, it kills its sibling.
A study led by Hugh Drummond, an evolutionary ecology professor at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City, found that parents and senior chicks cooperate in the infanticide, “as if their fitness interests were congruent.”
The complex lives of Boobies make the Galapagos Islands a prime attraction for biologists like Drummond, as well as photographers and birders on guided tours.
Galapagos Islands Birding
In April Waved Albatross couples perform mesmerizing courtship rituals that have captivated birdwatchers for centuries.
To get the most out of a Galapagos Islands trip, proper lenses, tripods and other equipment are critical. Experienced photographers like Kevin Loughlin, owner of Wildside Nature Tours, combine that kind of technical expertise with a deep understanding of bird behavior, biology and ecology. An understanding of the differences of each of the 19 Galapagos Islands helps birders find what they’re hoping to see on this bucket-list destination.