Name That Galapagos Booby!

Galapagos Islands Animals

Did you know that the Galapagos Islands are home to three unique types of boobies?

Blue-footed boobies are perhaps the most famous species, but there is also the beautiful masked Nazca, and red-footed species. They are all thought to have descended from a common ancestor.

Who knows? Maybe in another 100,000 years the Galapagos will also evolve a purple-footed or green-footed species!

Galápagos al Desnudo (1211)

If you see all three species on your Galapagos vacation will you be able to spot the differences?

Galapagos Boobies: What’s the Difference?

I found it fascinating that they have evolved unique behaviors that go well beyond the color of their feet.  Here are some of the differences…

  • Nazca booby chicks are siblicidal. That’s science-speak for killing their siblings right out of the nest!
  • They all have mating dances, but the dance of the blue-footed boobies is the most elaborate and dramatic.
  • Blue-footed boobies feed close to shore, Nazca boobies feed further out, and red-footed boobies feed very far out.
  • Red-footed and Nazca boobies can be quite hard to spot in the central islands, though you may find blue-footed boobies right under your nose!
  • Nazca boobies and blue-footed boobies nest on the ground. Red-footed boobies prefer the trees.
  • Most red-footed boobies are brown, but there are a small percentage that are naturally white and black. They are different colors naturally, but still the same species!
  • Blue-footed boobies and red-footed boobies judge potential mates by the color of their feet. The brighter, the better!

It’s not just the feet….

Check out the differences in their heads. You actually don’t need to look at the feet to tell what species you’re looking at. Nazca boobies appear to be wearing a black robbers mask. Red-footed boobies have a striking pearlescent blue beak. Blue-footed boobies have gray heads.

Name that Booby!

Can you tell the difference?


Are you planning a trip to the Galapagos? Which species would you most like to see? Please share by commenting on this post.

Meet the Author

Lisa Cho is an expat living in Ecuador, originally from San Francisco, California. She writes about the Galapagos Islands on this site and about her mainland Ecuador adventures on

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