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|A red-footed booby (white morph) at the Tubbataha Reef National Park, Philippines.|
The red-footed booby (Sula sula) is a large seabird of the booby family, Sulidae. As suggested by the name, adults always have red feet, but the colour of the plumage varies. They are powerful and agile fliers, but they are clumsy in takeoffs and landings. They are found widely in the tropics, and breed colonially in coastal regions, especially islands.
The red-footed booby is the smallest member of the booby and gannet family at about 70 cm (28 in) in length and with a wingspan of up to 1 m (3.3 ft). The average weight of 490 adults from Christmas Island was 837 g (1.845 lb). It has red legs, and its bill and throat pouch are coloured pink and blue. This species has several morphs. In the white morph the plumage is mostly white (the head often tinged yellowish) and the flight feathers are black. The black-tailed white morph is similar, but with a black tail, and can easily be confused with the Nazca and masked boobies. The brown morph is overall brown. The white-tailed brown morph is similar, but has a white belly, rump, and tail. The white-headed and white-tailed brown morph has a mostly white body, tail and head, and brown wings and back. The morphs commonly breed together, but in most regions one or two morphs predominates; e.g. at the Galápagos Islands, most belong to the brown morph, though the white morph also occurs.
The sexes are similar, and juveniles are brownish with darker wings, and pale pinkish legs, while chicks are covered in dense white down.
This species breeds on islands in most tropical oceans. When not breeding it spends most of the time at sea, and is therefore rarely seen away from breeding colonies. It nests in large colonies, laying one chalky blue egg in a stick nest, which is incubated by both adults for 44–46 days. The nest is usually placed in a tree or bush, but rarely it may nest on the ground. It may be three months before the young first fly, and five months before they make extensive flights.
Red-footed booby pairs may remain together over several seasons. They perform elaborate greeting rituals, including harsh squawks and the male's display of his blue throat, also including short dances.
References in Popular Culture
The bird is featured in an episode of The Brady Bunch titled "Pass the Tabu", which originally aired on September 29, 1972. Jan (Eve Plumb) sees the bird sitting on a tree branch while sightseeing in Hawaii. Carol (Florence Henderson) laughs when Alice (Ann B. Davis) reads from a guidebook that the bird is called a Red-footed Booby. Alice then replies, "He doesn't look too happy about it either."
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- Harrison, Peter (1996). Seabirds of the World. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01551-1.
- Hilty. Birds of Venezuela. ISBN 0-7136-6418-5
- ffrench, Richard (1991). A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd ed.). Comstock Publishing. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2.