There are not many places on earth for observing this delightful creature, for they are a marine bird found only on a few tropical and sub-tropical spots in the Pacific Ocean. A trip to Espanola Island in the Galapagos yielded a fascinating introduction.
Sula nebouxii breed here where their ground nesting succeeds without animal or human disturbance, and they are surrounded by plenty of tasty meals. They eat fish and are extraordinary divers, aligning their large body and wings in a streamlined bullet as they pierce the waters. A large bird, about the size of a bald eagle, they measure approximately 36 inches long with a wingspan of over 4.5 feet. To learn more click here.
We found their breeding colony and were entertained for hours observing their mating dance. A sunny, open expanse of lava and rocks was the scene for over a hundred of these showy birds.
Their mating displays are loud and raucous, and the dance is truly spectacular. They have elaborate gestures that include strutting, dancing, lifting and presenting their feet, sky pointing, whistling, bowing, and nodding. All of this is done in a ritualistic order. What a crazy, surreal scene it was to see dozens and dozens of pairs in different stages of displaying, mating, and nesting.
When I see humans acting oddly in public, strutting and posing and doing their best to attract a mate, I am sweetly reminded of the glorious day we watched the blue-footed boobies on that island in the Pacific.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander