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The Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii)

Boobies are odd-looking sea birds with a rather unfortunate name. In fact, their name comes from the Spanish word bobo, which means "foolish" or "clown," due to their odd appearance and their clumsiness on land. That word has since gone on to mean something a little less family-friendly in English literature. What else can we learn about them? And why are their feet blue?

Physical Description and Behavior

The blue-footed booby is a rather large seabird, which is about 3 feet in length with a wingspan of about 5 feet. They have a thin sharp beak, dark brown wings, a white chest of feathers, and shaggy brighter brown colors on their head and upper back.

Fun Fact: There are two species of booby with vivid colored feet. The red-footed booby, whose feet are red due to a secondary sexual characteristic of the females, and the blue-footed booby. This booby tends to have bright blue feet mainly due to the carotenoid pigments that are present in the foods that they consume. Interestingly, these pigments reduce immune function but they do seem to contribute to the mating process.

Their mating ritual is rather odd. For a male to attract a mate, they play an odd game of Hokey-Pokey, moving between sticking their right foot in and then their left one. Females prefer males with brighter feet because the bright foot color tends to degrade with age.

Habitat and Location

These birds spend most of their time on the open ocean, but when it is time for them to breed, they find a nice island to settle down on. These boobies can be found on the beaches of the Pacific Ocean in the Americas. This includes the southern US, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile. They are well-known on the Galapagos Islands.

They are considered to be of Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List.

Check out their mating dance by watching the NatGeo video below:

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