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Red-footed Booby

Sula sula

Length: 28 inches Wingspan: 60 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Distinctive bright red feet, grayish bill, adults have a continuum of color phases, from nearly all white, to nearly all brown

Red-footed Booby - Sula sulaThe Red-footed Booby is the smallest of the boobies.  They are found in tropical waters throughout the world, and are only considered vagrants to the United States.  In the U.S., they are most often seen around southern Florida, but there are also records in southern California, and scattered records around the Gulf Coast.  Plumage of the Red-footed Booby is variable, with a continuum of plumages from nearly all white birds to nearly all brown birds.

Habitat: Has breeding colonies on islands in tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They prefer islands with scattered trees or large shrubs for nest sites.  Outside of the breeding season, they may be found in open waters from land.

Diet: Feeds on fish and squid, and occasionally other marine life.

Behavior: Forages by plunge-diving into the water in pursuit of prey. 

Nesting: Red-footed Boobies nest in large colonies, with some colonies consisting of thousands of birds.  The nest of a Red-footed booby is usually built in a shrub or tree, and is made up of twigs, grasses, and other vegetation.  The female lays a single egg, and both parents help to incubate it.  Both parents tend to the young and feed it, with the young not achieving independence until about four months after hatching.

Song: Has a harsh squawking sound, given on breeding colonies.  Away from breeding colonies, usually silent.

Migration: There are no consistent known migration patterns, but Red-footed Boobies do disperse from breeding colonies once the young become independent.  They may be found far out at sea and far from breeding colonies when not breeding. 

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Red-footed Booby sightings

Similar Species: Red-feet are distinctive if the bird is seen well, but otherwise can look similar to other booby species including Blue-footed Booby, Masked Booby, Brown Booby.

Conservation Status: Populations of Red-footed Booby appear to still be widespread, and they are relatively common in some areas.  The IUCN lists the Red-footed Booby as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) Cornell's All About Birds - Red-footed Booby

2) Audubon Guide - Red-footed Booby

3) USGS Patuxent Bird Infocenter - Red-footed Booby

Photo Information: Photo taken by Joanne Goldby - Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike Generic 2.0 License.


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Red-footed Booby - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Red-footed Booby Photos (coming soon!!)