The order Suliformes holds a lot of special birds from anhingas and darters to cormorants and shags as well as frigatebirds, pelicans, and tropicbirds. But the sleekest of the sulids may be found in the family Sulidae. Gannets and boobies are pulchritudinous plunge divers possessed of long wings, conical bills, and totipalmate (all four toes are webbed), sometimes garishly colored feet.

This is what totipalmate feet look like

Gannets are undeniably awesome, yet for some reason people spend a lot more time talking about boobies. Many avid fans even wear bracelets…

But then again, boobies as a group are pretty spectacular and first among equals must be the booby with the blue feet. The Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) is a beautiful brown and white seabird famous for its astounding azure appendages. This booby’s blue feet mirror the color of clear skies from pale aquamarine to deep turquoise. As is often the case in birds, teenagers, and other living creatures, these charismatic colors play a prominent role in the booby’s breeding rituals. Basically, lady boobies love knocking the brightest blue boots.

Courtship looks something like this…

Blue-footed Boobies subsist on an entirely piscine diet. They are daring divers, powerful underwater swimmers, and cooperative hunters. Anyone who has observed gannets or boobies in action can attest to how impressive their acrobatics can be.

Blue-footed Booby by Toni Darton

One may find Blue-footed Boobies at various locations along the eastern Pacific Coast from California south to Peru. However, Sula nebouxii is most closely associated with Ecuador’s evocative Galápagos Islands. While this bird shares the Galápagos with two other boobies, the Red-footed Booby (S. sula) and Nazca Booby (S. granti), the booby with blue feet tends to make the most indelible impression. Perhaps that explains why the Galapagos Conservation Trust raises funds to help protect the Islands’ unique wildlife and habitat through the celebration of Blue-footed Booby Day.

Blue-footed Booby Day 2011 will be celebrated on Friday, June 17. How can you show your support for the unique creatures of Galápagos? One fun way is to make your feet blue like that of this beauteous booby by wearing blue shoes or socks, or by using a special template to create your own Booby feet. No matter what color your feet are, you can also donate to the Galapagos Conservation Trust through just about any medium imaginable.

Happy Blue-footed Booby Day!!

All photos except the one featuring “I love boobies” bands used with the kind permission of the Galapagos Conservation Trust.

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.