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 might be the extent of many people’s knowledge.
For example, our home is near the Florida gulf coast where there are thirty-three species of seabirds, including several varieties of gulls, 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 this story are blue-footed boobies (Sula nebouxii), among the most fascinating of the world’s seabirds. Dooley and Talli are boobie brothers. Boobies 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. 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 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. 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, weigh about three .pounds. Their wingspan measures approximately five feet. They live to seventeen years of age in the wild and have no known predators.