Many people, especially those who live and work in inland areas might be surprised by the number of different species of seabirds that exist in nature. Gulls, penguins, and pelicans are probably the extent of many people’s knowledge.
But for folks near major saltwater bodies of water, those birds are just a few of many. For example, near our home near the Florida gulf coast alone, it’s common to see as many as thirty-three species of seabirds, including several varieties of gulls, as well as pelicans, terns, cormorants, and shearwaters. There’s also the American oystercatcher, the yellow-nosed albatross, the magnificent frigatebird, and the black skimmer, among others.
The central characters of The Long Flight Home are blue-footed boobies (Sula nebouxii), among the most fascinating of the world’s seabirds.
Dooley and Talli are brothers. Boobie mothers lay one to three eggs. But they practice asynchronous hatching, which means that the egg that is laid first is hatched before the second egg. The second is hatched before the third. That’s the reason Dooley is the older brother, by five days.
Blue-footed boobies are indigenous to the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador. They have projectile-shaped bodies as well as blue webbed feet. They are powerful and agile fliers, yet are remarkably clumsy when taking-off and landing.
Along with blue feet and, often, blue beaks, boobies have forward pointed eyes that give them stereo vision . . . but make them appear cross-eyed when seen head-on,
Boobies hunt fish from altitude and dive from heights up to three hundred feet into the sea to pursue their prey. They can hit the water at about sixty miles an hour and actually swim underwater chasing the fish they spotted from the sky.
Air sacs under their skin cushion the impact of the water. And they use their wings and feet to propel themselves through the water.
Boobies live and hunt in colonies. And both the mother and the father incubate and then care for their young.
Adult blue-footed boobies are thirty-two to thirty-four inches in length and weigh about three and a third pounds. Their wingspan measures approximately five feet. They generally live to seventeen years of age in the wild and have no known predators.
The name “boobies” comes from Spanish sailors who observed boobies when they landed and took off awkwardly . . . some might say comically. The sailors called them bobos, which means “silly” in Spanish.
Have we got your interest?
Come back for Chapter 1 on Friday, August 3rd . . . when the adventure begins!