Red-footed boobies are found across the tropical regions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, particularly on islands. The Galapagos archipelago, therefore, provides an ideal home for these birds, which are the smallest of all the booby species.
As well as being comparatively small – about 70 cm in length — red-footed boobies are also undeniably strange-looking creatures. While these boobies range in color from white to brown with numerous shades in between (brown with a white belly being most common in the Galapagos), they are all united by one peculiar characteristic: their distinctive red legs and feet.
As if having big red feet wasn’t strange enough, red-footed boobies also have a pale blue bill and a pinkish throat pouch. This slightly clown-like appearance is highly appropriate when you see one of these birds trying to take off or land, during which they are notoriously clumsy.
But once they are airborne or in the water, red-footed boobies shed all their clumsiness and become impressively nimble. They are strong fliers, capable of traveling 90 miles in search of food. They are also agile enough to pluck flying fish from the air.
Below the water, red-footed boobies are skilled divers. When they spot fish from above, they use their aerodynamic bodies – their wings wrapped close around them – to plunge dive at great speeds, capturing small fish and squid with impressive ease.
One other strange trait of the red-footed booby is its propensity for nesting on top of shrubs and in small trees. Most boobies make their nests on rocks or cliffs, but red-footed males collect sticks and twigs for the construction of elevated nests. To help them with this, red-footed boobies have developed longer toes than other boobies, allowing them to better grasp branches. These nesting practices may seem counter-intuitive for a bird with webbed feet – especially one so clumsy on land — but they somehow make it work.
Read more about the Red-Footed Booby at Galapagos Conservation Trust.
Other Galapagos Wildlife