The Boobies of Galapagos, Ecuador

Boobies are any of six or seven species of large tropical seabirds (family Sulidae, order Pelecaniformes). They vary in length from about 65 to 85 cm (25-35 inches) and are wide-ranging in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. The blue-footed booby occurs in the Pacific from southern California to northern Peru and on the Galápagos Islands. Boobies' bills are long, their bodies cigar-shaped, and their wings long, narrow, and angular. They fly high above the ocean looking for schools of fish and squid. When prey is sighted they plunge headlong into the water in a swift, vertical drop.

Boobies nest in colonies but have a highly developed territorial sense. Many ritualized displays (e.g., head nodding and jabbing) are used to defend the individual's territory within the large breeding colony. Courtship also involves display-an elaborate dance by the male in which the feet are raised alternately several times, followed by a gesture known to ornithologists as sky-pointing (the birds extend their wings horizontally and toward the tail, raise their heads, and emit a long, continuous whistle). The eggs, usually two in number, are laid on the ground in a rudimentary nest. Boobies get their name from their tameness and lack of fear of humans; they were easily killed by early mariners, who named them boobies to denote their presumed lack of intelligence. [- Encyclopedia Britannica 2004]

Blue-footed boobies in courtship ritual Blue-footed boobies in courtship ritual Blue-footed boobies in courtship ritual Blue-footed booby gaurding its egg
Blue-footed booby Masked boobies
Blue-footed boobies in courtship ritual Baby masked booby

Excerpt from The Voyage of the Beagle (1831-36) by Charles Darwin

Given the extreme tameness of the birds of Galapagos,] we may, I think, conclude, first, that the wildness of birds with regard to man is a particular instinct directed against him, and not dependent on any general degree of caution arising from other sources of danger; secondly, that it is not acquired by individual birds in a short time, even when much persecuted; but that in the course of successive generations it becomes hereditary ... there is no way of accounting for it except as an inherited habit: comparatively few young birds, in any one year, have been injured by man in England, yet almost all, even nestlings, are afraid of him; many individuals [at Galapagos] have been pursued and injured by man, but yet have not learned a salutary dread of him. We may infer from these facts, what havoc the introduction of any new beast of prey must cause in a country, before the instincts of the indigenous inhabitants have become adapted to the stranger's craft or power.



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