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Sulidae – Boobies and Gannets

Blue-footed Booby in Mexico: Photo by Gavin McKinnon

Sulidae, known for their powerful diving abilities, consists of gannets and boobies. These birds are found in oceans worldwide, where they plunge from great heights to catch fish and squid with their sharp beaks. Their streamlined bodies and long wings make them adept at both high-speed dives and efficient long-distance travel. Colonies are typically located on remote islands or coastal cliffs, where they build their nests and raise their chicks in large, noisy groups. Gannets and boobies are not only skilled hunters but also impressive flyers, capable of covering vast stretches of ocean in search of food.

Overview of Sulidae

Their comical courtship displays, featuring brightly colored feet to attract mates, along with their steadfast nest attendance and clumsiness on land, earned boobies their name. However, at sea, where they spend most of their lives, sulids are formidable predators. They fold their long wings back and plunge from great heights, diving at speeds over 100 km per hour to catch schooling fish near the surface. This incredible diving ability is why they lack external nostrils. Observing a flock of boobies or gannets dive-bombing into the water from a small boat is one of the most thrilling experiences for an ornithologist.