The Blue-Footed Booby is a marine bird native to subtropical and tropical regions of the eastern Pacific Ocean. It is one of six species of the genus Sula – known as boobies. It is easily recognizable by its distinctive bright blue feet, which is a sexually selected trait. Males display their feet in an elaborate mating ritual by lifting them up and down while strutting before the female.
The natural breeding habitats of the blue-footed booby are the tropical and subtropical islands of the Pacific Ocean. It can be found from the Gulf of California south along the western coasts of Central and South America to Peru. About half of all breeding pairs nest on the Galápagos Islands. The blue-footed booby is a specialized fish eater, feeding on small schooling fish such as sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and flying fish.
In the 1960s, the Galapagos Islands were home to almost half of the world’s breeding population of blue-footed boobies, with a population of around 20,000 breeding birds. However, research suggests that blue-footed booby populations in the Galapagos have suffered large declines in recent years, with an estimated population of just 6,400 birds in 2012. It is thought that this decline is related to a decline in clupeid fish, especially sardines, which the boobies seem to need in large quantities in order to breed. The lack of sardines does not affect adult mortality, but greatly reduces their rate of reproduction.