Monday, June 27, 2011

Give me a Stick!

Namena Island, home to nesting Red-footed Boobies

I handed a male red-footed booby perched on the tree, a small stick. You would have thought he won the lottery. He grabbed the stick with his beak.

"Look at me, look at me," he squawked proudly. It was as if he were flexing his muscles like men do at the gym, hoping to attract someone with his bulging biceps.

Instead of flexing his muscles, the booby did a lap around the bay parading the stick.

He then returned to his perch. His female friend seemed pleased. He continued courting and started his sky-pointing dance -- not as elaborate as his larger cousin, the blue footed booby who we saw nesting on the ground in Mexico and Ecuador -- but he fluffed his wings and pointed his tail into the air.

The female accepted the stick and together they placed it under her body. So far, she had only two sticks, not nearly enough for a nest, but a start.

Here, in the small island of Namena, about 20 miles south of SavuSavu, red-footed boobies congregate and nest in the trees. They are the only booby birds that nest in trees. Their special claws on their webbed feet allow them to grasp the branches without toppling over.

We saw some fluffy white chicks sitting alone in the nests, waiting for their parents to bring them breakfast. It took them 45 days to hatch and then they hang out in the tree for another 130 days.

Meanwhile both their parents are very busy, flying around, looking for fish. It's an arduous task, not because they have difficulty spotting fish with their bulging eyes, but it's hard for them to catch the fish and bring it back to the nest without getting bullied by a lurking frigate bird. The frigates can't swim so they rely on other birds to catch fish and then they steal the food. We saw this happen a number of times.

Also in Namena, we went for a night snorkel with Oso Blanco. Bear spotted a sleeping green turtle who we woke up with our underwater lights and followed him as he sleepily moved around the reef and surfaced for a breath of air. I grabbed my buddy, Jo's hand, when I looked up and saw a white-tipped shark patrolling the area. I know they're not interested in us, but still they do look fierce in the dark of the night. The reef fish on the other hand looked like deer stunned by headlights as they floated above the coral.

1 comment:

Jim and Heather on Meerkat said...

That is so cool! The boobies look different than the Mexican ones.

Looking Back

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