- ORDER: Suliformes
- FAMILY: Sulidae
A magnificent seabird of tropical oceans, the Masked Booby looks like a Northern Gannet in disguise. These lanky seabirds are snowy white like gannets, but with a blackish “mask” of skin at the base of the bill, as well as more extensive black in the flight feathers. The name “booby” derives from the Spanish bobo (for "fool”), possibly because of their ungainly courtship dances. Like other boobies, they nest in large colonies and forage at sea, making spectacular plunges into the ocean to capture fish and squid.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Masked Boobies occur out at sea in most of the world’s tropical oceans. To see them near the United States, visit Florida’s Dry Tortugas islands (boat trips are available from Key West). You may also see other tropical seabirds such as Brown Booby, Brown and Black Noddies, and Sooty and Bridled Terns. Masked Boobies occasionally come as far north as the Gulf Stream waters off Hatteras, North Carolina, where you might see them during a pelagic birding trip.
- Piquero Enmascarado (Spanish)
- Fou masqué (French)
- Cool Facts
- Masked Boobies lay one or two eggs in a shallow depression on the ground. Males often decorate the edge of the nest. A single nest had 988 pebbles or pieces of coral, 155 shell fragments, 10 bird bones, and a piece of wood.
- The closely related Nazca Booby, which breeds along the Pacific Coast of northern South America, including the Galapagos, was long considered a subspecies of Masked Booby. The two species were formally split in the early 2000s. The smaller Nazca Booby has a shorter, shallower, and more orange bill; and it nests on cliffs rather than on low, flat areas. "Nazca” refers to the tectonic plate in the eastern Pacific Ocean that underlies the islands where this species nests. In turn, the plate bears the name of the Nazca culture of ancient Peru.
- The oldest recorded Masked Booby was at least 25 years, 3 months old when it was found alive in the wild in the Pacific Oceania area.