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The Blue-footed Booby is known as a Galapagos glamour species, but it’s also a master high-diver with a lifestyle befitting a noisy-voiced rock star.

With glitz come the inevitable cynics who call it the avian version of a clumsy, loud used-car salesman with overly flashy shoes. They’re all wet.

The avian Elvis expertly plunge-dives for sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel. It even picks flying fish right out of the air. It doesn’t steal from other birds or scavenge from fishing boats. Booby breeding colonies can be used to inexpensively gauge the health of the eastern Pacific Ocean simply by counting chicks.

Well, it's 1 for the money, 2 for the show. Three to get ready. Now go, cat, go. . . You can do anything, but stay off of the booby’s blue suede shoes.

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The Lava Gull of the Galapagos Islands, the world’s rarest gull, catches fish, scavenges and takes food, eggs and chicks from other birds.

They have elevated thievery to an avian art form. Positioning themselves strategically, when kleptoparasitic Magnificent Frigatebirds swoop down onto the cliff nests of Swallow-tailed Gulls, the real thieves move in.

As the Frigatebirds divert the Swallow-tailed parents, Lava Gulls instantly snatch fish and squid dropped amid the squawking chaos. The clever Lava Gulls follow Frigatebirds and repeat the maneuver at the nests of Nazca Boobies and Red-billed Tropicbirds.

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Ecuador is adding 19 wind turbines on 1 of its Galapagos Islands where critically endangered Galapagos Petrels fly to and from their nests at night.

The 22 total turbines on San Cristóbal Island will enable it to significantly reduce its use of diesel fuel while also meeting a booming electricity demand resulting from the Galapagos archipelago’s huge ecotourism appeal.

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The Common White Tern is immaculate. It has an ephemeral, almost ghostly appearance that is unequalled by the Great White Egret, Snowy Owl or any other all-white bird.

This small tern is cool in 4 other surprising ways.


It nests in trees rather than on the ground. It also has the longest incubation time in relation to its egg mass of any tern. To compensate for the long incubation, its eggs lose water 50 percent slower than similar-sized eggs of other birds.

(Photo: Eagle-Eye Tours)


Here's another nifty trick: the terns use UV vision to pick a mate. Since males’ and female’s feathers are all ghostly white, you might be tempted to think that something other than plumage color catches the eye of courting birds.

However, terns and other birds can see things we can’t. Human eyesight works in the 400-700 nanometer range of light wavelengths. Birds also see into the ultraviolet at 320-400 nm. Attractiveness being in the eye of the beholder is true of birds in general, and specifically for the White Tern.


The primary feathers, the long wing feathers that provide aerodynamic thrust, have a “frosting” of barbules that give them a silvery sheen. As the feathers weather with age, the frosting wears away. We birders don't notice, but the terns do.

In addition, terns have evolutionarily tinkered with the molting process to enhance their eye-candy appeal during courtship. They replace their inner primaries, in sections, up to three times a year. Panels of newer feathers make up for ones that have lost their glitter.

“It is likely that terns with a high degree of repeated molt demonstrate good body condition or foraging ability and would, therefore, be more desirable as mates,” biologists with the University of Memphis and University of Minnesota reported in the Journal of Avian Biology.


Eagle-Eye Tours is leading a 14-day birding tour to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in October 2016. The birding tour will provide unforgettable views of Common White Terns and many other seabirds and forest birds. Some of the other species include the Manus Friarbird, Mussau Monarch and the Paradise Drango.


The White Tern also reveals secret aeronautical truths in the way it flies while catching small fish. The fish are nabbed in midair as they jump. Terns move from one jumping school of fish to another. They also plunge head-first for fish like other terns and follow marine predators that drive fish to the water's surface.

The similar sized Common Tern can hover motionlessly in still air and surface-plunge for fish. The White Tern can’t match this feat.

Why not?

The White Tern has shorter wings (348 mm half-span) than the Common Tern (414 mm). Observant birders don’t need UV vision to notice the consequence: Common Terns occasionally hover while White Terns don’t.

The White Tern must fly about 2.6 m/sec. to remain airborne, or fly into wind moving at least that speed to “apparently hover.”

Many other birds also are “apparent hoverers.” They using prevailing winds or thermals to remain motionless while scanning the water or ground for prey.
Some sunbirds can briefly hover to sip nectar if there is no way to perch on a flower gushing with nectar. The Common Tern can only hover a few second, scanning the water, before it runs out of gas.

The ultimate avian hoverers are hummingbirds. They weigh 3-10 g and expend a whopping 1 watt of energy during hovering. That metabolic rate is actually beyond that of all other birds. For species like the White Tern, apparent hovering is good enough.

I believe that the more we watch, photograph, study and enjoy Common White Terns, the better for the species, all birds, all wildlife and all humans.

#SolomonIslands #birds #birding #Asiabirds #birdwatching #birdlovers #naturephotography #wildlifephotography #birdphotography #ornithology #amazingbirds #birdphotos #birdingtours #birdingguides #Oceania #ecotourism #beautifulbirds #amazingplacestosee #beautiful_nature


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The Blue-footed Booby is birders' most popular bird by a wide margin of 8 species found on the Galapagos Islands. Our unscientific preference poll on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and the Top Birding Tours website. (These sites have over 33,000 followers and received over 17 million views per month.)

Here are the results so far:

1. 42.9% Blue-footed Booby
2. 21.4% Galapagos Penguin
3. 14.3% Waved Albatross

Remaining votes went to the Large Cactus-finch, Glyphorhynchus race of American Flamingo, Magnificent Frigatebird, Red-billed Tropicbird and Flightless Cormorant.

The Blue-footed Booby is a sleek and efficient predator of sardines, anchovies and mackerel. It even picks flying fish right out of the air. The clumsy-looking high-stepping courtship performances don’t reflect this bird’s aerial agility.

The blueness of a Blue-footed Booby's feet comes from a fish-derived carotenoid pigment in their diet. It’s an immune chemical that subdues pathogens, and a powerful signal to potential mates of health and fitness.

The bluer a male's high-stepping courtship strut, the more attractive he is to the ladies. On the flip side, males prefer females with the bluest feet.

The preference of bird lovers for this species is appropriate because half of all Blue-footed Boobies breed on the Galapagos Islands. Its relatives are the Red-footed, Nazca, Brown, Abbott’s, Masked and Peruvian Boobies. All boobies are in the Sulidae family with Gannets, one of the few bird families adapted to dive head-first into water.

Blue-footed Booby females lay two eggs about five days apart in colonies. The parents use their like heaters to incubate the eggs. The first-hatched chick is always the bigger, more dominant sibling. It sometimes, it kills its sibling.

A study led by Hugh Drummond, an evolutionary ecology professor at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City, found that parents and senior chicks cooperate in the infanticide, “as if their fitness interests were congruent.”

The complex lives of Boobies make the Galapagos Islands a prime attraction for biologists like Drummond, as well as photographers and birders on guided tours.

Wildside Nature Tours has a $500 discount on its 11-day tour in April 2016 led by wildlife photographer and Wildside owner Kevin Loughlin. During the trip, Waved Albatross couples will be performing its mesmerizing courtship rituals.

To get the most out of a Galapagos Islands trip, proper lenses, tripods and other equipment are critical. Experienced photographers like Loughlin combine that kind of technical expertise with a deep understanding of bird behavior, biology and ecology. Also, an understanding of the differences of each of the 19 Galapagos Islands is crucial.


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Give your opinion. Click on this link to vote in an anonymous poll of your favorite Galapagos bird. The choices are: Large Cactus-finch, Galapagos Penguin, Red-billed Tropicbird, Waved Albatross, Glyphorhynchus race of the American Flamingo, Flightless Cormorant, Blue-footed Booby and Magnificent Frigatebird.

The poll results are posted here:

Feel free to share this poll with your friends.
If you'd like to add a species to the poll, just put your suggestion in a comment.

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Since arriving on the Galapagos Islands 300,000 years ago, the Galapagos Hawk is the undisputed apex predator of the islands' iguana hatchlings, birds and rodents.

Galapagos Hawks even scavenge fish, and marine mammals and their placentas on the beach after they give birth. Short-eared Owls hide during the day to avoid being chased.

(Photo: Kevin Loughlin, Wildside Nature Tours)

The hawk has one of the avian world’s most unique family structures. Each breeding group consists of one female and one to eight unrelated males. All the males mate with the female, have an equal chance of fertilizing her eggs, and cooperate in feeding all the nestlings.

The hawks are ever alert to new opportunities and improved odds for a meal in changing conditions. Giant Tortoises are not attacked by hawks, but they withdraw their head and feet when a hawk flies overhead.

Land Iguanas are on the hawks’ menu. The raptors are three times more successful when baby iguanas emerge from natal burrows when the air temperature is less than 32°C (90°F). Eight or more hawks sometimes gather at these burrow openings, and warmer iguanas can escape faster than cool iguanas.

The hawks also attack Blue-footed Booby nestlings, but focus on nests at the periphery of a nesting colony. A pair of boobies typically produces a pair of chicks, and the raptor is 10 times more likely to attack the second-hatched, behaviorally subordinate one.

Adult hawks in 10 distinct populations vary in size to a remarkable degree: males can weight as little as 1.86 pounds (844 g) and females up to 3.48 pounds (1.58 kg) or more. After the initial colonization of the islands, each of the current populations has become genetically isolated and “is in the earliest stages of further divergence,” biologists from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, University of Florida, and La Estación Biológica de Doñana in Madrid, Spain, wrote in the Journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

Wildside Nature Tours is leading an 11-day tour starting Aug. 14, 2016 to the Galapagos designed for photographers, birders and nature lovers. The itinerary includes land excursions to different islands, snorkeling and swimming with fish, sea lions and sea turtles, and mini photo workshops to help participants get the best photos possible.

Like most Galapagos animals, the hawks have no fear of humans and circle us out of curiosity and probe our camp-site debris. Darwin reportedly pushed away a pesky Galapagos Hawk with the muzzle of a gun.

Each Galapagos Hawk is itself an island habitat to a bird louse (Degeeriella regalis) that feeds on feathers and dead skin. 

“To the lice, each bird is an island, and their populations are very different from bird to bird,” Noah Whiteman, assistant professor of biology at the University of Arizona, said in a news release. “We found the lice are passed on from mother to babies during brooding, almost like genes.”

The load of lice carried by individual hawks may have been important after feral goats were eliminated from the islands in 2006. With less food to scavenge the number of hawks fell. The species later re-established a new equilibrium population. 

In general, territorial hawks living in family groups exhibit better physical condition, better feather quality, have fewer lice and survive more often than non-territorial hawks. 

I believe that the more we watch, photograph, study and enjoy free living Painted Storks, the better for the species, all birds, all wildlife and humans.

#birds   #birding   #birdwatching   #birdlovers   #naturephotography   #wildlifephotography   #birdphotography   #ornithology   #Galapagos   #GalapagosIslands   #amazingbirds   #birdphotos   #birdingtours   #birdingcruises   #cruises   #birdingguides   #Ecuador   #Ecuadorbirds   #galapagosbirds   #ecotourism   #raptors  

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The world’s rarest gull breeds only on a few Galapagos Islands. The Lava Gull feeds on a fish, crustaceans and baby reptiles, but they also are specialized bandits. As Magnificent Frigatebirds attempt to steal from Swallow-tailed Gulls as they regurgitate food to their young, the scarlet-mouthed Lava Gulls often swoop in to snatch any fish or squid dropped amid the squawking  chaos. With the limited breeding range of Lava Gulls, you might suspect that the 300-400 total pairs would nest in colonies. However, they are solitary nesters around lagoons and island inlets, mostly on Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Genovesa, Santiago and Floreana islands.

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Española Island in the Galapagos Archipelago is the exclusive breeding ground of all the roughly 34,000 Waved Albatrosses in the world (except for a few pairs on another nearby island). The only tropical albatross in the world, this fish- and squid-eating bird, like other Galapagos birds, takes advantage of the island’s geographic position at the confluence of three ocean currents and the rich marine ecosystem.

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The elegant aerodynamic shape and black-and-white artistry of the Swallow-tailed Gull, like this one photographed on San Cristobal Island, make it stand out among gulls of the Galapagos Islands. The Swallow-tailed Gull, endemic to the Galapagos archipelago and one other island, is unique among seabirds in its fully nocturnal lifestyle. It uses its hooked bill to efficiently prey on squid and fish that rise to the ocean’s surface at night.
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