Bird Facts Red Footed Booby

The Red-footed Booby, Sula sula, is a large seabird found in the tropics. Despite its classification as a large seabird, compared to other members of the booby family of birds, it is on the small side.

Generally speaking the Red-footed Booby can be found from the east coast of Africa, eastwards through the Indian and Pacific Oceans, until the eastern coast of South America is achieved. It is only found as far north as the Tropic of Cancer, and as far south as the Tropic of Capricorn.

The Red-footed Booby is an ocean dweller, spending much of its life at sea, only returning to tropical islands in order to construct nests.

Current estimates suggest that there are as many as a million adult Red-footed Boobies across its range, although there is continued evidence of a decline in numbers. Presently the Red-footed Booby is classed as being of Least Concern.

The Red-footed Booby typically measures 75cm in length, with a wingspan of 140cm. These birds have long pointed tails and wings, as well as long bills. They of course have bright red feet, hence their name.

Aside from the red feet, the colouring of the Red-footed Booby differs greatly across its range, with many different morphs and variants identified. There are indeed white morphs, where most of the bird is white, and there are also brown morphs amongst many others.  

The Red-footed Booby is well-known for its ability to plunge dive, where depths of 30m can be achieved. With excellent eyesight, Red-footed Boobies can spot prey, mostly fish and squid, beneath the ocean’s surface, and once underwater the bird’s webbed feet can help with swimming. Equally though the Red-footed Booby is nimble enough to catch flying fish as they jump out of the water.

When it is time to breed, colonies of Red-footed Boobies congregate on small tropical islands. Nests are then constructed in shrubs and trees, with the nests made from twigs and available vegetation. The female Red-footed Booby will on average lay a single egg every fifteen months. Once laid the egg is incubated by both parents for 7 to 8 weeks. The young Red-footed Booby will remain in the nest for between 12 and 15 weeks, and it might be several more weeks subsequently before the young are able to make flights of any considerable length.

The Red-footed Booby is a sight to behold as it dives underwater, and although declining fish stocks are a concern, its immediate future doesn’t hold too many issues, and so should be around for future generations to marvel at.