One day I would love to see a booby….a blue-footed booby in-particular. There are actually many out there worth seeing – the masked booby (most likely out of the lot to rob a bank), brown booby (booby with a tan), peruvian booby (name says it all really), nazca booby (the biggest of the boobies) and finally the red-footed booby (a small booby with attitude). I am more than sure I would ogle in amazement at any one of these boobies but, the blue-footed is a jaw-dropper.
Usually I write about personal wildlife experiences and boy do I wish I had one with this particular bird. Sadly though I have not – one can dream. To be perfectly honest I was compelled to write a piece about the blue-footed booby because my boyfriend loves them. So this piece is for him. He even does a pretty good impression of the blue-footed booby courtship dance. He knows his stuff.
If you are from the UK the blue-footed booby is not a bird you are likely to see on your back doorstep and you probably won’t see it chilling out on the rocks at your local beach. However if you were lucky enough to live on the Galapagos or the continental coasts of the eastern pacific then you might actually see one; and how awesome would that be. Perhaps you would see it torpedoing down to the ocean at 60mph (thank god it has a protective air sac which protects its brain) in search for a bit to eat. Or maybe you would stumble across a pair in the midst of their courtship dance. The male would be slowly flashing his secret weapon…those big, beautiful, blue feet. The female is not attracted to those who have the biggest (size doesn’t matter after all). It is the brightest which really grab her attention. This colour is produced from carotenoids in their fish loving diet which indicate the healthiest and strongest individuals. More fish = more carotenoids = bluer feet = very productive and industrious male. That is the simplified science behind it all anyway. So like us even female birds can be a bit fussy and judgmental when it comes to choosing a mate. If his feet aren’t blue enough the poor guy doesn’t even get a look in…unless he was to shower her with gifts. She won’t get flowers, or chocolates, or diamonds. The male will lavish individually chosen nesting materials on her – what better way of demonstrating your serious by providing her with bricks and mortar. Have yet to see this work in a pub on a Friday night;
“Here you are love, I really fancy you – I brought you this brick to prove it”.
What has always intrigued me about the booby is its name. I can understand how it was christened “blue-footed” – Spanish explorers definitely hit the nail on the head there. But where does the “booby” come in. I am no judge but there is certainly nothing there to brag about – in-fact it seems pretty flat chested (not that there is anything wrong with that).
Perhaps it should have been called the “blue-footed boobless tropical seabird the males of which like to wave their feet up and down to attract the ladies”. If only I had been there at the time of first identification.
The term “booby” actually comes from the Spanish “bobo” which translates to stupid fool or clown. Like so many seabirds they are pretty agile and capable out at sea but on land they can seem a bit drunk – hence the name “bobo”. A bit like us really only the opposite way round. I guess we are often the wobbly ones out at sea until our legs get accustomed to the rolling waves. It makes me wonder if they have a similar name for us.
It is hard to imagine but there is actually a slight dark side to the blue footed booby. They usually produce two eggs at a time which hatch roughly 4 days apart. Therefore the first chick gets a bit of a head-start in life. He or she can turn against the second hatching chick – stealing all the food from it and even dragging it out of the nest. This isn’t an extreme case of sibling jealousy – it is a survival mechanism occurring when there is a shortage of food. As harsh as it sounds in ensures that at least one reaches adulthood and this is a very good thing. Let’s face it – where would be in a world without boobies.