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23 September 2012 / leggypeggy

Blue-footed boobies—nature’s synchronised divers

Booby taking off

Booby taking off

What a name—blue-footed booby! The story goes that this bird, common in the Galapagos, got its name from Spanish sailors. They thought it acted silly (it’s very clumsy on land) and knew it had funny-coloured feet, so they made use of the Spanish word for clown or fool, bobo.

There’s another link to the name, better known to English speakers. The birds often perched on the raised hatches near the bow of British ships—hence the term ‘booby hatch’.

We saw plenty of boobies in the Galapagos. It’s fun to see them showing off their blue feet, but the best thing is to watch them hunting and dive-bombing for food. There are red and white-footed boobies, but we didn’t see any of them.

The blue-footed boobies fly high overhead searching for likely targets. When they spot a school of small fish such as sardines, mackerels or anchovies, they dive in unison. They point their bodies down like arrows and dive from heights of up to 30 metres (100 feet). Apparently they can dive into as little as 2 feet of water. I bet synchronised divers would be jealous.

Diving boobies

Diving boobies

They hit the water at speeds of up to 100 km/h (60 mph) and by the time they pop to the surface, they have probably already eaten their catch.

Male boobies have a showy mating dance, which we never saw. Darn. Boobies lay two or three eggs each breeding season, and the parents share the incubation (they use their feet to keep the eggs warm) and later the feeding of the young.

Most of the birds we saw were flying, diving or nesting on shore, while we were in a boat, so I don’t have any great close-ups, but I do have a lot of great memories.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Joanne T Ferguson / Sep 23 2012 1:47 pm

    Thanks for sharing your boobies lol lol Am enjoying your adventures through yours and Poor John’s eyes VERY much! Thank you for bringing one of my Bucket List Destinations to life too!


    • leggypeggy / Sep 23 2012 2:46 pm

      Hi Joanne, you are most welcome. I still have a few more Galapagos posts to share—and then on to the Amazon and more of Ecuador.


  2. lmo58 / Sep 23 2012 5:12 pm

    Hi Peggy,
    What an unusual bird! That blue is very attractive too; very elegant and streamlined. Thank you, as always, for sharing. I’ve been meaning to ask too, given that you had to change companies, will you still be visiting Machu Pichu?


    • leggypeggy / Sep 23 2012 10:02 pm

      Yes, we’ll be seeing Machu Picchu next month. We’ll walk the Lares Trail rather than the Inca Trail. The latter has only ruins, the former has villages, and I always prefer the villages.


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