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Red-footed Booby - BirdForum Opus

Adult white moreph, S. s. rubripes
Photo © by Neil Fifer
Oahu, Hawaii, USA, 3 September 2004
Sula sula


Adult brown morph
Photo © by LMG
Galapagos, 2001

L. 26-29 in

  • Long tail
  • Short neck
  • Red feet
  • Black flight feathers
    • Primaries and, in most populations, outer secondaries
  • Bluish bill with pink base
  • Bluish skin around the eye

Brown Morph

  • Wings darker than head, neck and underside of body
  • Pink face
  • Bluish bill
  • Most have white tip to tail
  • Many have dark brown necklace around upper breast

Brown with White tail

Fundamentally similar to the brown phase except that the entire tail, undertail coverts, and uppertail coverts are white.

White Morph

  • Entirely white, except for flight feathers
  • Distinctive black bar on distal underwing coverts
    • See image
  • Yellow wash on head and neck in some populations

Some Pacific populations have most of the tail black, while in the Caribbean and around Australia, the tail is white.


Birds are similar to the brown color phase, but lack the pink base to the bill. They start out with the bill all gray and feet that are dusky to orange; the bill then turn two-colored with dark tip and lighter inner part that may be fleshy. The juvenile also have the head and neck lighter than the upperside of the wing, and compared with e.g., juvenile Brown Booby has darker underwing lacking the white areas seen in the latter.


This is a pan-tropical species with nominate subspecies breeding in the Caribbean (only white and brown with white tail) and off Brazil, with rubripes breeding in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and websteri breeding off Mexico and Central America.


Formerly placed under the name Sula piscator.


Three subspecies[1]:

  • S. s. sula: Red-footed Booby (Atlantic)
  • S. s. rubripes: Red-footed Booby (Hawaiian)
  • Breeds islands in tropical Pacific and Indian oceans
  • S. s. websteri Red-footed Booby (Eastern Pacific)


Pelagic; rarely seen near land except near breeding colonies which are normally situated on small islands.



May breed in any month with nests situated in trees and bushes, rarely on the ground.


It is a strong flyer which rarely dive vertically but instead often flies into a wave or hit calmer water in a shallow angle. May also catch flying-fish above water.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Carboneras, C., Christie, D.A., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Red-footed Booby (Sula sula). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/52624 on 5 October 2019).
  3. Howell, S. N. G. and K. Zufelt (2019) Oceanic Birds of the World: A Photo Guide. Princeton Univ. Press.
  4. Red-footed Booby (Sula sula), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/refboo

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