Monday, October 1, 2012

Bird of the Month: Blue-footed Booby

The Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) is a common member of its family in Panama.  Probably is one of the most known booby, as this is the species typically depicted on all those Galapagos Islands documentaries, with bright, plastic-like, blue feet and elaborated courtship displays.  Those blue feet are  a secondary sexual characteristic, linked to health status, access to food and age (older males have duller legs) and not simply a caprice of the nature.  In non-breeding season, the feet become dull blue-gray... you can see in my photos that there are still some individuals with bright blue feet. 
By the time I took the next photo, at the Frailes islands off the Azuero Peninsula, the Blue-footed Booby was considered quite uncommon in the Pacific coast of Panama... and then only around the Gulf of Panama.  The photo illustrates the conical bill and head and the strong neck... adaptations to the fishing style of diving like bombs from considerable heights!
We are seeing now an increase of numbers of this species in Panama... once a rare sight from shore, now it is not uncommon to see them flying close to shore, as I had done in Cocle province of central Panama (Juan Hombrón and Aguadulce for example), or along Panama City.
Not only that... back in 2005 and 2006, Angehr et al. reported the Blue-footed Booby as outnumbered by its close relative, the Brown Booby, in the Gulf of Panama; however, since then, it seems the contrary is happening... each time it is more and more difficult to see Brown Boobies from shore... and in my recent trip to the islands of the Gulf of Panama, the Blue-footed Booby was -by far- the most common booby encountered.
For these, and many other reasons, is why we chose the Blue-footed Booby as our Bird of the Month!
Literature consulted:
1.  Angehr G, Dean R. The birds of Panama. A field guide. 2010.
2.  Angehr G, Kushlan J. Seabird and Colonial wading Bird Nesting in the Gulf of Panama. Waterbirds 2007; 30: 335-57.
3.  Ridgely R, Gwynne J.  A guide to the birds of Panama. 1993. 

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