October 3, 2012

Wildlife Wednesday: The Blue Footed Boobie

During the mating season, male blue-footed boobies strut about with exaggerated movements that show off their fabulous blue feet. Females tend to pick the males with the bluest feet as their mates. (Females have blue feet, too, but the males' are more striking, especially when they're ready to breed.) The males do all they can to make sure females notice their feet.  In addition to the males? Strutting, male and female boobies dance together by pointing their bills upward in the air, as the male spreads his wings and  whistles. The male often brings nesting material to the female as part of the mating ritual. However, the pair doesn't make much of a nest. The female simply lays one to three eggs in a depression in the ground. Blue-footed boobies live and nest in colonies, or large groups. A pair of boobies generally raises more than one brood a year. A large colony of blue-footed boobies is constantly bustling, busy, and noisy.  Both parents care for their eggs, taking turns keeping them warm and safe. They use their feet to cover the eggs to keep them warm.
Once the chicks hatch, they must stay very close to their parents. If they stray too far from the nest site, they won't survive—booby parents don't retrieve a chick that strays. Parents take care of their chicks? Feeding and protecting them—until they're about two months old. At that point, young boobies can survive on their own. Blue-footed boobies sleep at night, generally on land, and feed at sea during the day. Sometimes boobies feed in a group. They often fly far out to sea to look for their prey —small fish such as anchovies. The birds either zip underwater for fish from a floating position on the water's surface or make awesome dives from as high as 80 feet (24 meters) in the air. A blue-footed booby has a wide wingspan of nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters). Once it spots a school of fish, the bird folds those wings back, becoming a streamlined, torpedo-shaped predator. The booby dives into the water among the school of fish, using its long beak to grab dinner.

The scientific name of the blue-footed booby is Sula nebouxii.
On average, a blue-footed booby lives 17 years in the wild.
Blue-footed boobies have striking blue feet, white bodies, and heads streaked in brown and white.
Blue-footed boobies live at sea and on islands off the western coasts of Central and South America.
About half of all breeding pairs of the blue-footed booby live on the Galapagos Islands, which are a group of islands about 600 miles (965 kilometers) off the coast of mainland Ecuador.
A blue-footed booby's body ranges from 32 to 34 inches (81 to 86 centimeters) long, and the bird weighs about 3.25 pounds (1.5 kilograms).
Females are generally a little bit bigger than males.
There are several species of boobies, including Nazca, brown, and red-footed boobies.
Watch the Blue Footed Boobies Mating Dance Below:

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