Visiting Isla Isabela in the Galápagos Archipelago

Boobies, Penguins, and Sea-Lions

A spectacular photo of dozens of blue-footed boobies plunging into the waters of the harbor. (Photo by Marcie Connelly-Lynn.)  

After breakfast, we decided to go for a dinghy ride around the reef islands in the anchorage. We saw lots of wildlife, including dozens of blue-footed boobies. Marcie got a great photo of a whole flock of boobies diving into the water, which I referred to as the "booby meteor shower".

When boobies are looking for a meal, a whole flock of them will slowly fly in a wide circle high over the water. In photographs, you can see the individual boobies tilting their heads down to peer into the water, looking for schools of fish. When they spot a target, individual boobies peel off from the circling flock and dive towards the water until finally the whole flock is in various stages of the attack dive. They start out from perhaps 50 to 100 feet and plunge vertically, streamlining their bodies as they go faster and faster. They first pull in their wings, then fold them back and streamline their feet, so as they hit the water the entire booby has become a slender cylindrical projectile, complete with a pointy front end (its beak).

They plunge into the water at such high speed they are almost invisible due to the blurring of motion. Neatly entering the water, they make a brief but sharp "schloop" sound and leave only a narrow circle of bubbles. If they plunge in right next to the boat and you're in the cockpit, it can be a little startling, since they drop out of the sky at such a high rate of speed and from directly overhead so you usually don't see them coming. A few seconds later, the booby bobs to the surface, straightens itself out, then jumps up and runs along the surface of the water, flapping its wings to gain flying speed. I read in a book that boobies have both their eyes facing forward, giving them very useful stereoscopic vision but also an odd appearance for a sea bird.

There are a few more pictures of blue-footed boobies on the next page.

A flock of boobies slowly circling over the harbor at altitude, patiently waiting for dinner to appear.

This booby plunged into the water next to Nine of Cups, then bobbed to the surface and is now running to gain flying speed.  

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