Visiting South America and finding the blue-footed booby, one begins to think a group of giggling adolescents was summoned for name assignment duty on the continent.

Blue Footed Booby on the Galapagos Islands

Blue footed booby bird – Galapagos Islands

“Let’s call this big pond Lake Titicaca“.

The 12 year old gang doubles over with laughter and snorts.

“That’s nothing! Over here this one will be Lake PooPo“.

Now the puberty driven hysteria is in full swing. They can no longer stand up they are laughing so hard. Rolling about on the ground they spy birds flying overhead. One, who can manage to speak between fits of giggles, calls out,

“Look! There are boobies in the air!”

Bird with blue feet

The bird with the blue feet -Not a blue footed bobby but a blue-footed booby

All right it didn’t happen that way. However, even the most stone-faced traveler will fight a slight curl of the lip, as a tour guide begins speaking of the blue-footed boobies.

How did the blue-footed booby get it’s name?

It is believed that early European explorers named six species of birds boobies after the Spanish word ‘bobo’ meaning stupid.

To those who first saw the birds, they appeared clumsy on land, stumbling over their large, webbed feet. The bird with blue feet, with its willingness to approach people, also seemed foolish to the explorers.

Consequently the unusual blue webbed wonders were labeled with the derogatory, giggle inducing, name.

Bird on rock in Galapagos

Galapagos boobies

What are the booby’s blue feet used for?

The large, blue webbed feet are used to cover the 1-3 eggs laid by the female booby. Both the male and female take part in the care of the eggs.

On a side note, the blue-footed booby is monogamous but has the potential to become bigamous. Sounds a bit like humans don’t you think?

Long before covering eggs, the blue feet are used for mating purposes. The male struts and holds up his blue feet to impress the female. The darker the blue of the feet, the more attractive the booby is to prospective girlfriends.

mating dance

  Photo credit Wikimedia Commons -Snowmanradio (talk) – Booby dance of the male blue footed bird

Why are the feet of the booby blue?

One might think the bird has a permanent case of poor circulation. However, with the blue footed booby habitat being on the eastern Pacific coast from California to the Galapagos Islands to Peru, frostbite is unlikely.

It is the blue-footed booby’s diet of fresh fish containing carotenoid pigments that causes the blue color of the feet. A less healthy booby has a lighter blue tone to his or her feet.

Darker feet mean more attractive boobies, which means healthier birds. No wonder Darwin loved studying these islands.

Although the blue-footed booby dance seems comical to humans, studies show that chicks of the blue-footed booby, whose parent has the darkest blue feet, are healthiest.

Thus the showing off of those blue feet, may indicate how well the future parent can feed its young.

Blue footed booby and bird

Galapagos blue-footed booby and flying friend

If the feet of the blue-footed booby weren’t alone interesting enough, to adapt to diving for fish, the booby’s nostrils have permanently sealed. The blue, web-footed bird breathes out the sides of its beak.

You never know when you might need that addition to your trivia list of blue-footed booby facts.

Blue-footed booby Galapagos – Sardines please

One of three species of boobies found on the Galapagos Islands, the blue-footed booby is seen at highest frequency on North Seymour. Although this is the best breeding ground, the blue birds can also be seen on the islands of Espanola, Fernandina, Floreana, Isabela, Pinzon and Santa Cruz..

In the 1960’s, 20,000 blue-footed boobies inhabited the Galapagos islands. By 2012 the estimate of the Galapagos blue-foots sat at 6,500. The decrease in population relating to a decrease in the supply of oil rich sardines.

In 2017, the Galapagos Conservancy, using the same methods as 2012, found several hundred juvenile blue-footed boobies (1-2 years old), whereas in 2012 less than 10 had been seen. Sardine availability has also improved.

Are there other kinds of boobies?

If the adolescents are searching for more uncontrollable giggling, bring on the blue footed booby relatives. A booby is a seabird in the genus Sula, part of the family of Sulidae.

The bird family all dive for fish, or similar ocean delights. Boobies once underwater, pursue their prey. Air sacs under the facial skin, making the impact less severe.

Other booby birds include the brown booby, masked booby, Nazca booby, Peruvian booby and the red-footed booby.

Red footed booby

Red-footed booby – Photo credit Wikimedia Commons Joseph C Boone

The red-footed booby and the masked or blue-faced booby habitats are wide. Found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Brown boobies are found in similar locations as well as breeding on islands off the Pacific Coast in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

Where can you find the blue-footed booby?

The blue footed booby lives along the continental coasts of the eastern Pacific ocean. The bird with the blue feet inhabits area from California, through Mexico and to the Galapagos Islands.

map blue footed booby habitat

Blue-footed booby habitat   Red – breeding colonies
Light blue – feeding range at sea



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