The blue footed booby seems to be the most talked about of the booby species, I think their feet have a lot to do with that. They also feed close to shore which makes them more visible.
There are two other booby species found in the Galapagos Islands which also deserve attention. The red footed booby (Sula sula) and the nazca booby (Sula granti) have characteristics and behaviors that make them very interesting as well.
The Red Footed (Sula sula) Booby
The red footed booby can feed on flying fish which is catches in the air. This feeding behavior differes from both the blue footed and nazca boobies because they are both plunge divers. The red footed booby is also a plunge diver – but nimble enough to catch flying fish out of the air.
Red footed boobies are smaller than the blue footed and nazca boobies. Because of their small size they are vulnerable to the Galapagos hawk and can not live where the hawks are found. For this reason you can find them on Wolf, San Cristobal, Darwin, Floreana and Genovesa islands.
The red footed boobies lay just one egg at a time. This also differs from the other two species because they both lay 2 at a time. In some cases, the blue footed booby will even lay 3.
As their name suggests thy have bright red feet. There are different color variations or morphs among red footed boobies, usually white or brown or combinations of both.
The Nazca (Sula granti) Booby
Nazca boobies (Sula granti) were once thought to be of the masked booby species but now have their own classification. The coloring of their bill and body come into play when trying to distinguish between them. The Nazca booby has an orange to reddish-orange bill while the masked booby has a yellow bill. They also have white central tail feathers whereas the masked boobies always have black tipped tail feathers.
The Nazca booby is the largest of the boobies found on the Galapagos.
Nazca boobies lay two eggs which in their case leads to an unusual situation. The bird that hatches first always pushes last one out of the nest. Left on it’s own, the rejected baby bird soon dies. Sometimes it is adopted by another bird but not very often. This behavior is thought to be a safety net of sorts, because if one egg doesn’t hatch, then there is always a back up.
Booby Plunge Diving
The three species of boobies in the Galapagos all plunge dive to catch fish. This is a fascinating thing to see! We saw blue footed boobies plunge diving on our trip and we were amazed.
They kind of fluttered in the sky as a large group and then dropped at the same time like rockets splashing into the water. They swallow the fish right away so they go right back up for another plunge dive. It is quite a show.
Have you seen boobies plunge diving? Please tell us about it by commenting on this post.