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Blue-footed Booby displaying by raising a foot
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Sulidae
Genus: Sula
Brisson, 1760

For fossil species, see text

Red-footed Booby, Sula sula

A booby is a seabird in the Sula genus, part of the Sulidae family. Boobies are closely related to the gannets (Morus), which were formerly included in Sula.

Boobies are large birds with long pointed wings and long bills. They hunt fish by diving from a height into the sea and pursuing their prey underwater. Facial air sacs under their skin cushion the impact with the water. Boobies are colonial breeders on islands and coasts. They normally lay one or more chalky-blue eggs on the ground or sometimes in a tree nest.

Their name was possibly based on the Spanish slang term bobo, meaning "dunce", as these tame birds had a habit of landing on board sailing ships, where they were easily captured and eaten. Owing to this, boobies are often mentioned as having been caught and eaten by shipwrecked sailors, notably Captain Bligh of the Bounty and his loyalists, during their famous voyage after being set adrift by Fletcher Christian and his mutineers.

Systematics and evolution

Five of the six extant Sulidae species called "boobies" are in the genus Sula, while the three gannets are usually treated in the genus Morus. Abbott's Booby was formerly included in Sula but is now placed in a monotypic genus Papasula which represents an ancient lineage perhaps closer to Morus.[1]

Some authorities consider that all nine species should be considered congeneric in Sula. However, they are readily told apart, by means of osteology. The distinct lineages of gannets and boobies are known to have existed in such form, since at least the Middle Miocene, c.15 mya (Olson 1985).

The fossil records of boobies are not as well documented as those of the gannets; possibly because the species of boobies were less numerous in the late Miocene to Pliocene, when gannets had their highest diversity or because of the more tropical distribution of boobies, many fossil species have simply not been found yet, as most localities are in continental North America or Europe.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Friesen, V. L.; Anderson, D. J., Steeves, T. E., Jones, H., Schreiber, E. A. (July 2002). "Molecular Support for Species Status of the Nazca Booby". The Auk (Kingston, Ontario: Department of Biology, Queen's University) 119 (3): 820–826. doi:10.1642/0004-8038(2002)119[0820:MSFSSO2.0.CO;2]. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 

External links

Simple English

A booby is a seabird in the genus Sula. Boobies are large birds with long pointed wings and bills. They hunt fish and squid by diving into the sea and chasing their prey underwater. Facial air sacs under their skin help protect the impact with the water. Boobies get their name because of their lack of fear of humans. Early mariners named them boobies to denote their believed lack of intelligence.[1]


  1. "Booby". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
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