A mysterious bird that is usually seen south of the U.S./Mexican border has been seen in good numbers off the Southern California coast. Blue-footed boobies have been spotted in various locations both offshore and even at inland lakes. Most of the sightings have taken place offshore of San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties. It’s not the first time these birds have visited southern California, but it’s unusual to see as many as have been seen in the last few weeks.
Blue-footed boobies, like most seabirds, rarely come ashore except to breed. Most of these birds nest on offshore islands in the Pacific off the coast of Mexico and South America with possibly half the population breeding in the Galapagos. They are also known to breed in the Gulf of California. Their name comes from their bright blue feet which are used by the male for breeding displays. It is speculated that the blue feet are a result of their diet and females tend to pick males with brighter colored feet, possibly indicating that they’re good at finding food.
Most of the booby sightings are from offshore during pelagic birding expeditions, though a few have been spotted from strategic bird watching positions on the shore. A few have been found either on land at or near the coast and inland lakes. The bird is known, also, for making an appearance in Arizona where it travels north from the Gulf of California. One, recently, was found at Patagonia Lake near Nogales, Arizona. Another inland sighting was at Lake Skinner in Temecula.
Blue-footed boobies are most likely to be seen from a boat several hundred yards offshore or more. These birds mostly hunt like pelicans and dive deep into the water to catch fish, such as anchovies, usually found away from shore. They may also possibly be seen around river mouths and inland waterways, though less likely than on the coast. They tend to stay in the air for long periods and are rarely seen on the ground. Boobies are similarly shaped to gannets and other boobies, can be distinguished from them by their bright blue feet.