Blue-Footed Booby Spied in SoCal Waters

“I think I have looked out at the Pacific Ocean thousands of times looking for birds, but I have never expected to see this bird,” says Dan Cooper, independent biologist who spied this morning a Blue-footed booby at about 7:45 am off the coast of Malibu near Gladstone’s Restaurant.

Cooper had stopped at the overlook because an overabundance of small feeder fish – anchovies probably – had been causing a feeding frenzy off the coast for weeks now. That’s when he spied the stately bird with a handsome tapered beak floating on the waves. “Loafing, not feeding,” he says. “This is very rare.”

In his report to e-Bird, Cooper writes:

“It flapped once in about an hour of observation,and I was able to see it had whitish at the base of the tail/rump (also visible when it was facing away from me), as well as extensively pale wing linings. It had a very long, darkish bill, but this would “flash” pale, as would the crown and neck, depending on the angle…”

Later birder David Bell would spy that same booby and writes on e-Bird:

“About an hour later it came in closer to shore to join a group of feeding cormorants, pelicans and gulls around a pod of porpoises. The obvious irregular white spots above made it immediately obvious that it was a blue footed booby, a species I have seen many times in Mexico and occasionally elsewhere.”


(Bell’s photo of the SoCal visiting booby)

The last report of a booby being spied in Los Angeles County was in 1965 in Bonelli Park in San Dimas, according to E-bird.

Boobies have been reported somewhat regularly in the Salton Sea, according to e-Bird – and they have been spied in 2009 on Anacapa Island and on the Isalas Los Coronados in 2010 off the coast of Tijuana — but heading farther north of that location isn’t usually part of this bird that usually prefers warmer waters.

The booby’s range is all over the Ecuadorian Pacific, from Southern Peru to about San Felipe in Baja, Mexico.

So is this flapper is just a Magellan of the species, checking out new territories, blazing a trail for fellow boobies? Did it get off the beaten path somehow, lured by the feeding frenzy off SoCal coast?  Hard to say.

But rare birds are, according to Cooper, not really that rare. Check out the Rare Bird Alert that the Audubon puts on daily he says. “Every few weeks we see some kind of rare bird in Southern California,” he explains.

Ahh, well, that may be true, but it’s not every day one can spy a booby in the Southland… (we’ll let you fill in the punch line to that….)

—Brenda Rees, editor, Featured photo by David Bell

Blue footed via Flickr and NOT taken in Southern California
Blue footed booby…photo via Flickr and NOT taken in Southern California