Galapatours clients tell us that the Galapagos Blue-Footed Booby is one of their favorite wildlife encounters from the islands. And once you watch the males’ remarkable mating dance we’re sure they will be your favorite, too!
The Galapagos currently has around 20,000 breeding pairs of Blue-Footed Booby and they are permanently resident. They breed throughout the year, and because they nest on the ground they are easy to see, and even to get close to on a land excursion from one of our Galapagos cruises.
The Blue-Footed Booby has a somewhat comical look on land, but that’s because they are a seabird, and when you see them fold their wings and plummet like a torpedo into the sea you will see them at their most powerful and graceful. On land, those big blue “paddles” always seem like they get in way a little - hence the bird’s name which is derived from the English word booby, meaning “foolish” or “clown”!
Unfortunately for the booby, they perhaps look their most “foolish” during their famous courtship dance, which is focused on the bright blue feet of the males. Because the females are impressed by the males with the bluest feet, the boys parade around their chosen nest site, lifting their feet high into the air. After presenting the female with his choice of nest materials, he spreads his wings wide and stretches his beak to the sky, whistling. The dance is then completed with another proud circuit of high leg lifts.
The question that our expert naturalist guides are asked most about these delightful creatures is “what makes their feet blue?”. In fact it gets asked so often, we even put the question into our online FAQ here! Rather like the feather color of flamingos, the source is from the diet. In the blue-footed boohies it’s from pigments called carotenoids, which come from the fish they eat. Scientists have also shown that the feet become an even brighter blue the healthier the bird is. So by choosing a mate with the bluest feet, the females are selecting well nourished and healthy partners!
Fast Facts about the Galapagos Blue-Footed Booby
- The name Booby is from the Spanish bobo - meaning clown or fool!
- The blue color of their feet comes from compounds in their diet - the better nourished the booby, the bluer the feet
- Over 50% of the world's population of Blue-Footed Boobies call Galapagos their home
- Male and female Blue-Footed boobies are almost completely identical, with the only difference being that females are a little bigger and has larger pupils