This aptly named seabird looks like it might be facing some tough weather. On this Wildlife Wednesday, we learn about the blue-footed booby and find out how we can help.
These fancy high flyers might be a bit blue in the face (and the feet), but that’s probably because they’ve spent so much time dancing! On this Wildlife Wednesday, we learn about the blue-footed booby.
These peculiar birds are found along the west coast of the Americas, at home in Mexico, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands. When times are tough, they can even be found in southern California and northern Chile.
- Blue from the cold? Not so much. These males use their flashy feet to attract a mate, and the bluer they are, the more she’s interested.
- Taking a scene from Happy Feet, males show off their teal toes to prospective mates by busting out the dance moves.
- These sushi-loving seabirds bring a whole new meaning to the term “fast food.” To catch lunch, they dive down into schools of unsuspecting fish from as high as 80 ft (24 m).
- The dodo isn’t the only bird to have its intelligence insulted; the name “booby” comes from the Spanish word bobo (“stupid”). It’s thought that European colonists gave the birds this charming name after seeing their clumsy gait and complete lack of fear.
Why are they threatened?
The IUCN may list these unfortunately named birds as “least concern,” but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be worried. A new study has found that the blue-footed booby population in the Galapagos has fallen by as much as 50 percent over the past 20 years.
The reason for this drastic nosedive, researchers believe, is due to the disappearing sardine schools that the birds rely on so much for food. The birds need a diet that consists almost wholly of sardines to breed successfully, and researchers found that sardines make up less than 50 percent of the diet of flocks found in the Galapagos.
The result is an aging bird population without hatchlings to replace them.
How can I help?
Unfortunately, researchers don’t yet know why sardine numbers—and, by extension, blue-foot breeding numbers—have fallen, but some possibilities including overfishing, global warming, or a completely natural cycle.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be proactive. Blue-footed booby supporters can reduce their carbon footprint and keep our oceans blue in order to protect the birds’ coastline home and fishy food supply.