Belize: The Magnificent Booby Birds

The Red-Footed Booby is a species within the Pelican family that lives in tropical coastal areas. This Booby Bird is also found on tropical islands in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans, excluding Africa’s Atlantic side.

In Belize the Booby is most often found out on the Cayes, most notably Half Moon Caye, part of which, in 1928, was gazetted as a Crown Reserve Bird Sanctuary under the Crown Land Ordinance. The Crown Sanctuary Reserve was specifically dedicated to protecting the Red-Footed Booby Bird. The Crown Reserve was the first and still is the oldest area designated for the protection of wildlife in Belize.

Half Moon Caye is currently home to a colony of about 4,000 plus birds including the Booby Bird. Boobies like to nest in very large colonies among the orange-flowered Ziricote thicket. At the western end of Half Moon Caye one has a spectacular view of the Boobies from an observation deck.

The Booby mother will lay only one light blue egg in her nest, which is made from sticks. Using their feet both Booby parents will take turns incubating their eggs for about 44 to 46 days then the babies will learn to fly about 3 months after hatching. Boobies must use their feet to incubate their eggs as they do not have a brood patch. Mating Booby pairs may remain together over several seasons though they do not stay together for life.

The Boobies love of the Ziricote trees is not a one-sided relationship. The Booby colony actually supports the forest’s stability with their droppings which the forest uses as fertilizer. This very unique relationship between Booby and Ziricote has and will continue to endure for many future years if it is left alone as nature intended.

The Booby has a very unique variety of color morphs, unlike other seabirds. The Boobies on Half Moon Caye are made up almost entirely of white-colored birds with some black markings on the tips of their wings. Elsewhere Boobies are a light brown and looking into the flock you may see a white-tailed brown morph or a Red-Footed Booby that is entirely brown. Despite plumage differences, all of these adults will have the same characteristic: red feet.

Being a coastal bird it is no surprise that Red-Footed Boobies eat fish. Like many fishing birds Boobies will dive into the ocean at high rates of speed from the air to catch prey in the water. Their diet has a main makeup of small fish and squid which will sometimes swim in large numbers close to the water’s surface.

The Red-Footed Boobies in Belize are the smallest of all the nine Booby bird species in the world. There are three Booby bird species in Belize: the Masked, Red-Footed and the Blue-Footed Booby. The Red-Footed Booby is about 28 inches in length and has a wingspan of just over 3 feet. The Boobies’ 3 foot wingspan makes them very powerful and agile fliers, however, they are known for clumsy takeoffs and landings.

A trip out to Half Moon Caye to see these magnificent birds will be an experience you will remember for the rest of your life!