Nazca boobies can be found along the Eastern Pacific coastline, in coastal regions of mainland South America and Central America, as well as in the Galapagos Archipelago and Mapelo island, Colombia, where they primarily breed. However, Nazca boobies can rarely be spotted offshore. They are one of three species of booby found in Galapagos and their name comes from the Spanish word ‘bobo’, meaning foolish or clown – referring to their clumsy movement on land.
Nazca boobies are white with black feathers on their tails. The males have yellow or orange beaks, while the female’s beak is far paler and has a more pinkish tone. However, their colours do slightly vary between different populations. Females are also slightly larger in size. Nazca boobies were differentiated from the masked boobies due to the difference in their bill colour, their larger size and breeding range. Nazca boobies can be told apart from the red-footed and the blue-footed boobies due to the difference in their feet colour. Although the Nazca booby does not flaunt an iconic bold colour like the two other species of boobies, they can be differentiated due to their grey feet and their orange beaks. They are often confused with the red-footed booby and masked booby.
Nazca boobies catch fish by plunge-diving into the waters from heights of up to 30 metres. They usually forage in the coastal waters surrounding the Islands. They consume small fish such as sardines, but also eat flying fish, squid and anchovies during periods of El Niño, when sardines are less abundant in the marine environment. Females will dive deeper and catch slightly larger fish.
During breeding season, the female will often lay two eggs rather than one. This is because Nazca boobies undergo an unusual process called obligate siblicide. The process occurs when one of the two siblings hatched grows larger and stronger than the other. As a result, the smaller and weaker chick will be killed and removed from the nest. The death of a chick may not be directly caused by its sibling. Often it will be the result of their failing metabolic system as the smaller chick cannot take sufficient care of itself once the parents leave the nest, whilst the larger one can.
Where to see them: They can be found at sea between the Islands. On land, they are most commonly spotted at Punta Suarez on Española, Punta Pitt on San Cristobal, and on Genovesa.
When to see them: On Genovesa, nesting takes place between August and November, and on Española, they lay their eggs between November and February, which makes it the best time to have a closer view of them. However, you can see them flying around throughout the whole year.
Threats: Introduced predators to the Islands and human development can cause disruptions to the Nazca booby’s behaviour. They are also the reason for nest failures, as the introduction of pigs has caused the abandonment of colonies. Nazca boobies are further threatened by fishing equipment such as long lines.
Conservation actions: We are currently working with partners to determine the risks of marine plastic pollution to seabirds, including Nazca boobies, as part of our Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos programme.
You can help us to protect seabirds, including Nazca boobies, by donating to our Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos programme today!