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Red-footed booby population on San Cristóbal increases

January 25, 2016

Red-footed booby

According to a recent census conducted by the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), the population of red-footed boobies inhabiting Punta Pitt — a visitor site on the east side of San Cristóbal Island — has increased significantly over the last 18 years.

The 1998 El Niño climate event had a drastic impact on the red-footed booby population in Punta Pitt, leaving only 45 birds. The recovery of the population was initially slow, but began to increase more rapidly in 2008, when 279 adult birds were counted. In 2013, 427 adults were counted, 752 were counted in 2015, and this latest census counted 974 adult birds.

Management of the area by the GNPD has helped the vegetation and food sources recover, providing the ideal habitat for the boobies to flourish. Carlos Ortega, director of the San Cristóbal Technical Unit, said that conservation efforts to control invasive species and reduce the numbers of ants, rodents, feral cats, and has goats helped foster increased growth of the booby population.

Ortega emphasized that data from the latest monitoring count are encouraging, as Punta Pitt now has a total of 1,315 red-footed boobies — including 974 adults, 89 chicks, and 252 juveniles. They also found 32 eggs, which are currently being incubated. The data collected only included birds which were settled in either nests or shrubs. Flying birds were excluded; however if these were included, the total figure for the red-footed booby population would likely increase by 10%.

The red-footed booby (Sula sula) is the smallest of the booby family and can be distinguished by its bright red feet. They share the area of Punta Pitt with Nazca boobies and blue-footed boobies, but their nesting sites differ: red-footed boobies nest in bushes, blue-footed boobies nest on the ground, and Nazca boobies nest in the cliff areas.

Content based on a press release from the Galapagos National Park Directorate, translated with their permission.

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