A Must-see Rarity: Red-footed Boobies in the Galapagos
Red-footed boobies in the Galapagos: you have not really been here if you haven’t seen them. These seabirds, related to their also famous blue-footed cousins, are something to behold. Not only because of specific characteristics that make them truly fit to thrive in the archipelago, but also because they are only seen at two spots that are visited through our Northern Itinerary and Eastern Itinerary. If you want the true Galapagos experience, make sure you see some of the rarest species of the islands. Get more acquainted with these amazing birds and be one of the few people in the world who gets to observe them in their natural habitat.
What makes them so special?
Red-footed boobies in the Galapagos, the smallest of the boobies’ family, make up for their size in strength, and abilities both in air and water. When it comes to searching and hunting for food, these pelagic birds –meaning they travel long distances over the ocean- cover up to 150 km (93 miles), and they can dive up to 30 metres (0.02 miles). Red-footed boobies also like doing daily activities together, and looking for food is one of them. They are so agile they can catch flying fish in mid-air. Talk about being talented!
They are professional divers and feature long beaks, and dancer-like aerodynamic bodies around which they wrap their long wings right before plunge-diving into the water. By doing this they can catch fish on the spot, which they have previously scanned with their keen sight. When in the water, they use their webbed feet to push themselves around. Watching them go into the water like truly Olympian divers is a truly entertaining experience!
Waddle Walkers and Branch-Perchers
On the other hand, on land, red-footed boobies look rather clumsy. Shifting their weight from one side to the other in a penguin-like manner, they are slow and graceless. Another rare feature unique to these birds is the fact that they perch on the branches of endemic fauna, even though they sport waddle feet. Something very unlikely for birds with this type of feet. Yet they have evolved to be accustomed to sitting on branches like normally others birds with separated digits would. They will often be observed perching in trees and shrubs.
Let the Mating Begin
When mating season starts, these sociable animals gather in their colonies to find a partner and mate. You might think you can only watch these birds mating dances once or twice a year depending on the season, but remember you are at the equator. There are no seasons here! When can you watch red-footed boobies mate? All year long! The thing with most seabirds in the Galapagos Islands is that they are opportunistic breeders. These means they get together and mate whenever they feel conditions are appropriate for their eggs to hatch, and that can happen anytime during the year. Due to the lack of seasons, it is believed they might base their decisions on ocean conditions, yet it is unclear, and thus, difficult to predict when they will mate.
Female red-footed boobies are capable of laying only one egg every 15 months. Thought this is in fact a low reproduction rate, they also live longer than other birds, with a lifespan of over 20 years. Balance is restored!
These birds can only be seen at Genovesa and the northern-most coast of San Cristobal Island. They are found in the outskirts of the archipelago, like Albatross, another pelagic seabird, because it allows them to look for nourishment in the open sea. When planning your Galapagos adventure, make sure you see these beautiful birds and check it of your Galapagos Big15 list. There is only so much we can cross form our must-see lists, and not a lot of time to do it, but if you get to see red-footed boobies, you can consider yourself lucky. Witness uniqueness and be transformed!