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The Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxi) is perhaps the most comical and charismatic of the booby species. Who can fail to be amused by its incongruous bright blue feet and almost desperate courtship behavior? The famous blue-feet are important in their courtship dances, one aspect of which involves raising the feet up and down, so the whole bird sways from side-to-side. They also engage in dramatic sky-pointing, described below. Blue-footed boobies feed close to shore, so they're one of the first seabirds seen by Galapagos visitors.

In appearance, male and female blue-footed boobies are almost identical. The male is slightly smaller, but close-up the easiest way to tell them apart is by the size of the pupil (black part of the eye) which appears smaller in the male.

The blue-footed booby occurs in greater numbers in Galapagos Islands than anywhere else and every visitor is guaranteed a close encounter. Their feet and courtship behavior are favorite subjects for photographers but their most spectacular act, diving for for from 50 feet above the sea, is not so easy to capture on film. They can dive in shallow waters, less than three or four feet deep, and viewed underwater, leave a U-shaped trail of bubbles as they dive in then rise back to the surface.

To learn more, see blue-footed booby natural history information and Boobies — general information

Click below to see the photos and information on blue-footed boobies:

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Photo of blue-footed booby standing on rock

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The blue-footed booby likes to stake its ground on a prominent rock on which to perform its display. When the partner comes back from a fishing expedition, the boobies reinforce pair bonds by "parading"— presenting their blue feet in a slow motion dance. Curiously, the intensity of blue differs widely—compare this individual with the one below.

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Photo of blue-footed booby skypointing

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Although "parading" is the best known part of the blue-footed booby's courtship ritual, skypointing is the most dramatic. This consists of leaning the head back so the bill points skyward, and spreading the wings, moving them back and forth. This is most developed in males who also accompany their performance with a fluty whistle. All this effort is to attract prospective mates. Hundreds of birds in a colony are performing their displays is an experience never forgotten.

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Photo of blue-footed booby eggs

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Once the pair is formed and mating is over, the female booby lays a pair of chalky white eggs, about the same size as a chicken's. The nest is a simple ring of guano, which is the chick's entire universe. If it moves one inch out of this circle, the baby booby is completely ignored by the parents. In a crowded colony, this ensures the parents do not end up with the wrong offspring. This photo was taken during a severe El Niño in 1999, a year marked by heavy rain which caused vegetation (horse purslane, Trianthema portulacastrum, in the photo) to grow up in the nesting area. This made it difficult for parents to find their eggs and to move around near the nest. The heavy rainfall also resulted in many nests flooding and consequently many were abandoned before the eggs hatched.

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Learn about blue-footed booby natural history

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