Red-footed booby

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Red-footed booby
Sula sula by Gregg Yan 01.jpg
A red-footed booby (white morph) at the Tubbataha Reef National Park, Philippines.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Suliformes
Family: Sulidae
Genus: Sula
Species: S. sula
Binomial name
Sula sula
(Linnaeus, 1766)

Sula piscator

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).[2] 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.

The species has been recorded three times from Sri Lanka.[3]

In September 2016, a male red-footed booby was inexplicably found washed up on a beach in East Sussex, UK, 5,000 miles from its nearest usual habitat. It was the first of its species ever recorded in the UK. The bird, named Norman, was exhausted and malnourished. He was brought back to health before being transported by plane to join a flock of boobies in the Cayman Islands in December 2016.[4]

January 2017, Muriwai Gannet Colony near Auckland New Zealand has had a Red footed Booby arrive – being the first to be sighted on mainland New Zealand. [5][6]


Red-footed booby
Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

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.


Red-footed boobies are spectacular divers, plunging into the ocean at high speeds to catch prey. They mainly eat small fish or squid which gather in groups near the surface.



  • 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.