Questions

What is sky-pointing?

Why does the female blue-footed booby lay her eggs right on the ground?

Why do Blue-footed boobies raise their chicks as a team?

Finding a Mate

Finding a Mate

The Galapagos Islands are located far out in the Pacific Ocean. They are about 600 miles (968 kilometers) west of South America. 

Why are these islands special? One reason is that they are home to many unusual birds and animals. Some of these creatures can't be found anywhere else in the world.

Birds and animals have a way of getting noticed and finding a mate. Scientists call these behaviors "mating rituals." A ritual is something that is done over and over again in the same way. Mating rituals are things that birds or animals do to attract a mate. This bird puffs up his chest to find a mate.

Look at this picture of one of the birds of the Galapagos. This bird is called a blue-footed booby. Its blue feet play an important part in its mating ritual.

The male booby usually starts the mating ritual. He stands on the ground, opens his wings, lifts his tail up, and points his beak toward the sky. This is called sky-pointing. Like a young man at a party, he is trying to get one of the females to check him out.

Soon, a female notices the male. Then the male booby walks in a circle around the female. He takes high steps, lifting his blue feet into the air one at a time. Showing off his blue feet is one of the ways that he attracts a female.  Then the female does some sky-pointing. The two birds may take turns lifting their beaks into the air. Their mating ritual is like a dance.

When two blue-footed boobies mate, they stay together and raise their chicks as a team. After mating, the male often gives the female a stick or a twig. For many birds, this gift would make perfect sense because the female could use the twig to start building her nest. But blue-footed boobies don't build nests.

There aren't many trees on the Galapagos, so it's hard to find sticks for nest-building. The female blue-footed booby lays her eggs right on the ground.  So why does the male blue-footed booby give the female a stick? Scientists aren't sure, but they have some ideas.  Maybe blue-footed boobies used to make nests thousands of years ago. The stick could be a ritual that is left over from that time. Another idea is that the boobies use the stick to mark the spot where they are going to lay their eggs.

Blue-footed boobies do something else that is unusual. They lay a circle of guano (bird droppings) around the spot where they are nesting. Scientists think that this is another way of marking the nest. 

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