Galapagos Boobies

The Galapagos Boobies are a part of the Sulidae family made up of ten species of long winged sea birds.


Their colorful feet are the main attraction of these popular birds in the Galapagos Islands. In Galapagos, there are three species of boobies: the Blue footed booby (Sula nebouxii), the Red footed booby (Sula sula) and the Nazca booby (Sula granti).

Blue Footed Boobies (Sula nebouxii)

blue galapagos boobies

Famous for their blue legs and feet these are the most common boobies in Galapagos.

These Galapagos boobies look quite similar to adults yet it takes 2 to 3 years to reach their adult plumage of a pale streaked head, dark mantle with white patches on the nape and rump, white bellies and a dark tail.

This is a funny looking tropical sea bird that has blue webbed feet and bluish facial skin. The head of the bird is a pale cinnamon-brown with dense white streaks.

Blue Footed Boobies nest in colonies. In large colonies there is almost continuous breeding with pairs nesting every 7 to 9 months. They can be seen breeding on most of the northern Islands in Galapagos.

Their projectile shaped body has evolved to allow them a very unusual fishing style. Spotting fish beneath the surface, they dive at great speed into the water and folding they wings just before entry.

Their stereo vision allows these Galapagos boobies to follow fish underwater.

Comical Mating Ritual

Their mating ritual is a not to be missed experience. The male raises one blue foot in the air, then the other, as he struts in front of the female.

His movements make him appear to be dancing as he stamps his blue feet up and down on the ground. Both the male and the female stretch their necks and point their bills to the sky.

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Red Footed Boobies (Sula sula)

red galapagos boobies

This is the smallest of the booby birds. Averaging 71 cm in length and a 137 cm wingspan. It has red legs and the bill and throat pouch are pink and blue.

The Red footed Booby bird has two plumage forms. The white phase is basically white with black on the flight feathers. The brown form is brown with a white belly rump and tail.

Few seabirds display such a variety of color phases. Legs and feet are red and their beaks are pale blue. The Red footed Booby bird breeds on Islands and coasts in tropical oceans. It winters at sea and is therefore rarely seen away from the breeding colonies.

The Red footed Booby bird nests in large colonies, laying one chalky blue egg in a stick nest in a tree, which is incubated by both adults for 44 - 46 days. It may be 3 months before the young first fly and 5 months before they make extensive flights.

It is the most abundant of the three Galapagos boobies species, but its colonies occur at the edges of the Galapagos Archipelago, except for the one on Genovesa Island, these are not often seen by visitors.

Feeding on flying fish far out at sea, the Red footed booby tends to nest on the outer islands of the archipelago. Unlike the other boobies, the red-foot nests in trees, it has little claws at the end of its webbed feet that are suitable for perching.

It also builds real nests which, although nothing more than fragile looking arrangement of a few twigs, is a marked departure from the other boobies, who nest on the open ground.

Nazca Boobies (Sula granti)

nazca galapagos boobies

It was formerly regarded as a subspecies of the Masked Booby but the Nazca Booby is now recognized as a separate species.

These booby birds are the largest of all the Galapagos boobies on the Galapagos Islands.

Its brilliant pure white body plumage contrasts with its almost black wing markings.

Nazca Booby birds are ground nesters and annual breeders, however in the last few years they have been behaving as opportunistic breeders.

During courtship, the Nazca boobies display an interesting dance ritual that begins with the sky point. This display is performed by male Nazcas to indicate to potential females that they are available to mate.

Its colonies are more usually found near cliffs and on the steep outer slopes of tuff and cinder cones, where the upward air currents make it easier to take off.

The Nazca boobie feeds further offshore than the Blue footed and is rarely seen fishing. They are occasionally seen taking off from the colony and diving immediately into the sea, after which they bathe themselves, perhaps to keep cool.

They are known for being pelagic in between the Islands. This means that they fish some five to twenty miles off-shore. Masked boobies are frequently seen by the edge of a cliff, posed on a rock.

These Galapagos boobies lay two eggs, several days apart from which only one chick survives due a practice called obligatory sibling murdering.

In this process, one of the chicks displaces the other by taking most of the food, therefore growing faster.

Once that has been achieved, the larger chick kicks the smallest and weakest chick out of the nest, leaving it to die of thirst or cold.

Recommended Reading

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides)

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides)
With 250 photos and tons of great information, this is an essential addition to your pre-Ecuador and -Galapagos reading! There are better guides if you are only interested in the islands, but for a combination trip taking in Ecuador as well, it's hard to beat.

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands
Small enough to fit into your pocket, yet containing comprehensive information and pictures of all the species you will encounter in the islands, this book is a must-have for nature lovers. Let's face it, Galapagos is largely about the wildlife. This book will NOT disappoint, and you'll have a great memento of your time with the seals, penguins and tortoises!

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World
Definitely NOT a tourist's guide, but if you're like me, and find the history and geography of the islands irresistible, then this is a title you ought to invest in. Stunningly illustrated, and painstakingly researched, those of you who have been there will be enchanted again -- and those of you who have not will begin planning your trip!

Moon Spotlight Galapagos Islands

Moon Spotlight Galapagos Islands
If you're a seasoned Galapagos regular, then you will probably prefer something weightier. But for first-timers looking for simple, down-to-earth advice on where to go, what to see and the best shopping and eating on the islands, this is the book for you. Small, well-priced, and reliable!

Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire

Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire
The 10th anniversary edition of this photographer's tour of the Galapagos Islands is a stunning book, worthy of anybody's coffee table. This is a perfect post-trip talking point -- a great way to remember what you've seen, and spread the word amongst your envious friends!

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