Red-Footed Boobies

 

In 1928, part of Half Moon Caye was gazetted as a crown reserve bird sanctuary under the Crown Land Ordinance to protect the habitat of the Red-footed Booby (Sula sula).  It is Belize’s oldest site designated for protection of wildlife.

A colony of about 4,000 birds nest in the Orange-flowered Ziricote thicket at the western end of the caye and is viewable from an observation deck. Red-footed Boobies prefer Orange-flowered Ziricote trees for nest building and raising chicks.  In return, the booby colony supports the forest’s stability by providing guano as fertilizer.  This beautiful relationship will endure for many years to come if left relatively undisturbed.

The Red-footed Booby, unlike other seabirds, displays a variety of color morphs. Half Moon Caye’s population is made up almost entirely of white-colored birds with black on the trailing edge of their wings. Elsewhere they are dull brown. Look carefully, somewhere in the crowd you may see a white-tailed brown morph or a Red-footed Booby that is entirely brown. Despite plumage differences, all adults have the characteristic red feet.

The Red-footed Booby and Magnificent Frigatebird share a unique relationship.  Co-existence is relatively peaceful among the nesting colony but conflicts occur over the open sea.  The smaller Red-footed Booby dives to catch fish or squid, and always swallows its food before flying. The long-winged, fork-tailed Magnificent Frigatebird chases and attacks the Red-footed Booby, hoping that it will give up its meal.  This behavior of stealing food is called kleptoparasitism.