To celebrate my 100th hub I thought I'd get up close and personal with Boobies.
All About Boobies
Boobies are a small group of seabirds native to tropical and subtropical oceans throughout the world. They are a species of bird which is closely related to the gannet, but it differs from the gannet in breeding on trees and bushes, and in having no feathers on its throat and lower jaw.
It is often bullied by the frigate, a different genus of the same order, which compels it to give up the fish it has captured.
The birds are found everywhere except on cold shores. The commonest member of the groups is the brown booby. Others are the red-footed booby, and the blue-footed booby.
They are strong fliers and travel hundreds of kilometres out to sea to feed on fish or squid, which they catch by diving from great heights into the water.
Why was the Booby so named?
Boobies are extremely tame. Their name comes from the apparent stupidity they show by landing on ships at sea and allowing themselves to be caught by sailors without attempting to flee.
The name booby is derived from the Spanish bobo, meaning fool.
The Anatomy of a Booby
Boobies are goose-sized birds, heavily built with thick necks and large heads, a wedge-shaped tail, and short legs with webbed feet. The bill is stout, broad at the base and tapering to a point. The wings are long and pointed and boobies are powerful and agile fliers, their flight contrasting with their clumsiness on land in the same way as the albatross.
Like the gannet, its close relative, the booby dives upon its fish prey from great heights and is capable of pursuing it underwater. Air sacs under its skin cushion the shock of these dives, and also enable the booby to rise to the surface quickly.
The most common tropical species, the brown booby, is brown with a white breast. The largest booby is the masked, or blue-faced, booby. It is white with black wings.
The blue-footed booby, which is found only on the Pacific coast of the Americas, has a gray head, brown back, white belly, and bright-blue feet.
They resemble gannets in general appearance, physiology and many details of their life-history, but are smaller and considerably lighter, weighing from 2 to 4 pounds (1 to 2 kg). They also differ from gannets in sexes of most boobies are alike in plumage but, unlike gannets, the female is larger and heavier than the male and usually differs appreciably in voice.
Different Types of Boobies
Three species of booby are widespread in tropical regions, breeding on coasts and islands and feeding over the sea. Their common names describe their distinguishing features.
The brown booby, which is the commonest in many parts of the tropics, differs from the others in not having an almost wholly white body. Its upper parts are dark brown, while the underparts are white. Around the bill and under the throat there is a patch of bare skin which is dark blue in males and yellow in females.
The red-footed booby is mainly white with black primary wing feathers and a grey-brown tail. On the ground it can be seen to have red feet. The bare skin on the head is black and red.
The third of the widespread boobies is the white, masked or blue-faced booby. Its plumage is, again, mainly white with blue-black naked skin on the face and yellow to greenish-blue feet.
The other three boobies are confined to certain ranges. The Peruvian booby or 'Piquero' is one of the guano-producing birds and is the commonest bird of the cool Humboldt current that runs up the coast of Chile and Peru. The blue-footed booby, with its distinctive mottled brown and white body and bright blue feet, also lives on the west coast of America but is confined to the warmer waters from California to Peru. Abbott's booby is found in the Indian Ocean. It breeds on Assumption Island and Christmas Island, where it nests in trees.
The Peruvian, Blue-footed and Brown boobies are inshore feeders, but the Masked, Red-footed and Abbott's boobies range far out to sea, even during the some aspects of breeding biology and social behaviour and in a few minor external features, including a more extensive area of bare facial skin which, together with the legs and feet, is more brightly coloured in some species.
Only the Peruvian booby nests in large, dense colonies, those of the other species usually being smaller and less crowded. Though breeding is annual and seasonal in some populations, it is more often less than annual and non-seasonal, mainly because food supplies are either constant throughout the year or unpredictable.
Frigate birds and kelp gulls, a species of South American gull almost identical with the lesser black-backed gull, frequently nest near booby colonies and prey upon them.
Kelp gulls raid the booby colonies for eggs and chicks. Sometimes a pair will work together, one attracting the attention of a sitting booby, drawing it off its nest, while the other sneaks up behind and steals an egg.
The frigate birds steal the boobies' food by chasing them, grabbing their tails and flipping them over. This panics the boobies into disgorging their food which the frigate birds catch.
Peruvian boobies were once wantonly exploited by man for their guano.
Boobies are classified as order Pelecaniformes, family Sulidae, genus Sula. There are six species. Found mainly in tropical areas of the South Seas, some also range along the southern coast of the United States.