Anyone who has traveled to the Galapagos Islands no doubt has dozens of “boudoir” photos of the comical blue-footed boobies and their distinct mating dance. But, according to a new study in Avian Conservation and Ecology, blue-footed boobies have been demonstrably less amorous since 1998 and their population numbers are in sharp decline.
The study says that the birds' breeding and reproduction has dropped to the point that "few pairs bred in 2011-2013 and almost no birds in juvenile plumage were seen." Even when healthy, blue-footed boobies only raise one to two babies per year.
But blue-footed boobies are also starving to death as the waters surrounding the historic archipelago experience a shortfall of sardines – critical to the diets of breeding blue-footed boobies. Other residents of Galapagos, like sea lions and Nazca boobies, are also showing evidence of fewer sardines in their diet.
5 Quick Facts About Blue-Footed Boobies
- Boobies are thought to take their name from the Spanish word "bobo," which means "stupid."
- While boobies are found off the western coasts throughout Central and South America, the Galapagos Islands population includes about half of all breeding pairs of blue-footed boobies.
- Male birds attract potential mates by showing off their feet wih a high-stepping strut. The bluer the feet, the more attractive the mate.
- Studies show that males' blue feet become less vibrant with age; however, if males skip a breeding season and don't mate, they displayed a more attractive foot color.
- Both parents feed and care for their checks.