Brown Booby

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Adult Boobies warily eying those weird kayakers….

These beautiful and intriguing birds were photographed by François van de Hoeven, during one of his many kayak expeditions together with other members of the kayaking-club ‘t Peddeltje.

Most Booby species wander far from coastal areas, hence are true seabirds like Albatrosses, but the Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) seems to be a little more land-bound, rarely traveling more than 25 kilometers from land. These relative big birds, with wingspans of about 145 centimeters, might have been partly responsible for the guano deposits on the small Island of Klein Curaçao, which were mined in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Anecdotal historical records provide some clues that, before the phosphate deposits were discovered, the Island seems to have been a Brown Booby nesting site.

Lots of guano transforming the rocks into blindingly white spots….

Mr. van der Hoeven informed us, that he observed breeding activity on Las Aves, and even up to his last visit to this beautiful and relatively unspoilt Island group, about 2 years ago, the population size seemed to be stable. A comforting feeling, for sure.
True seabirds, like these Brown Boobies, are skilled ‘(spear)fisherman’. They are sometimes harassed by Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens) who attempt to steal their catch, a behavior known as klepto-parasitism. At Westpunt you might observe this behavior if you are lucky (and patient).

Brown Boobies are true aerial wizards. Those long, slim wings give them an amazing gliding ability, just like a sailplane. They actually make use of the fact that air velocity is lower just above the waves, because the air currents are slowed down by the interaction with the wet medium. The birds will enter this slower moving air stream in order to build up speed, after which they will steer up and away from the general wind direction. This up and down moving aerial ballet allows them to stay on the wing for hours, almost effortless, which is energetically advantageous.

A beauty

We are not going to reveal the location where these pictures were taken, because these birds need all the privacy they can get. They do not breed on Curaçao at this moment in time, but that one single roosting area should be protected. Although you might not see them on a daily basis, our local coastal waters would not be the same without the majestic Brown Booby!