Boobies are a group of large seabirds which belong to a Sulidae family in order Pelecaniformes. Boobies are closely related to gannets, but the true boobies belong to Sula genus.
There are five out of six existing species of Sulidae which are called as boobies and these are included in the genus Sula. However, the closely related three gannets are included in the genus Morus. Earlier, the Abbott's Booby was included in genus Sula, but now it is placed in a different and monotypic genus called Papasula.
However, some authorities think that all the nine birds should be included as congeneric, in genus Sula. But these species are found as distinct according to the osteology. Also there found that the different lineages of boobies and gannets are present since at least the Middle Miocene, c.15 mya. There is no good record of fossils of boobies is present as compared to the gannets.
They are the largest sea birds, which has long bills and long wings. Their bodies are cigar-shaped and wings are narrow and angular. Their size ranges in length from 65 cm to 85 cm. Boobies lives on eating squid and fish. They roam above the open sea searching for schools of fish and squid. When boobies find their prey, they dive into water from the height and catch it.
Boobies have air sacs under their facial skin, which acts like cushion for them underwater. Boobies live in colonies. Although, boobies live in colonies, they also have a territorial sense. They display many signs to defend one's territory within the huge colony. They nest on coasts and islands.
During the breeding season, boobies lay one or more chalky blue eggs on ground or in a tree nest. A male bird displays a courtship dance during the breeding season to attract a female bird. They raise their feet alternately several times and also make a gesture like pointing head to sky and give a long continuous whistle.
The extant species which come under the Sula genus are given below with there scientific classification:
- Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra)
- Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii)
- Red-footed Booby (Sula sula)
- Nazca Booby (Sula granti, previously S. dactylatra granti)
- Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster)
- Peruvian Booby (Sula variegata)
Red-footed booby and masked booby are found in wide range in Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans. However, the blue-footed booby can be found in the Pacific Ocean from southern California to northern Peru and also on the Galapagos Islands.
They get the name 'boobies' probably from the Spanish word 'bobo' which means dunce. Boobies had the habit of landing on the sailing ships, which led them into danger as they were killed for human eating. They have no fear from humans, hence were killed by the early mariners. So they named as boobies which indicates their lack of intelligence.