It has been a big week for the blue-footed booby. Since last week's sighting near Will Rogers beach, birders have been identifying the equatorial birds in many spots across the LA area. "A bevy of boobies," says the website SoCal Wild, somewhat slyly.
So…why California? Biologists speculate that these are vagrant birds, Magelleans of the booby world, that are exploring beyond their normal range. Others wonder if global warming is enticing the boobies to travel more north in their expeditions. Who knows? The boobies aren’t talking.
According to eBird, as many as seven boobies have been spotted at Playa del Rey – Breakwater and Dana Point with reports being filed for sightings at Newport Pier, Ventura and inland lakes (Legg Lake) around Los Angeles and Riverside Counties. There was even one spotted up at Pt. Reyes Lighthouse in Northern California.
The folks at the International Bird Rescue in San Pedro also received one confused and emaciated booby which, according to executive director Jay Holcomb is “doing well.” The organization has cared for a booby in the past but it’s rare. This one was found wandering Sept. 12 near downtown Los Angeles.
“Upon intake, this bird was found to be thin with some minor abrasions on its maxilla and webbing,” he says. “This bird is now eating well and recovering in an outdoor aviary equipped with a large pool.”
Los Angeles has been lousy with blue-footed boobies before, but it has been decades. So long that the current generation of excited birders has not seen them before. From a story in today's Times that follows up on last week's reports.
Members of the large bluish-gray species with a long serrated beak, absurdly short legs and bright blue webbed feet have been spotted more than 30 times recently. They include six seen relaxing on the breakwater at Marina del Rey.
A similar wave of the birds hit Los Angeles County beaches, lakes and streams in the early 1970s.
"This is the first invasion of boobies since the numbers of birders have swelled," [Kimball Garrett, manager of the ornithology collection at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.] said. "So, there's a lot of happy bird-watchers seeing them for the first time."
On a more serious note, the arrival of a bunch of South American birds further north than usual is another piece of evidence — along with the increasing frequency of whales and ailing sea lions and pelicans — that something is amiss in the Pacific wilderness off our coast. "There's a lot of weird things happening out there," Dan Anderson, a professor of wildlife biology at UC Davis, told the LAT. "No one is sure of what the cause is."
Photo of a young blue-footed booby at International Bird Rescue in San Pedro