Brown Booby: Seashore Saturday

This week’s featured bird is a rare visitor to North America. It’s usually found at the southern tips of North America when it does visit, but is causing quite a stir here in New Jersey right now. It’s the Brown Booby.

About a week ago, a female Brown Booby showed up at Merrill Creek Reservoir in Warren County, New Jersey. It’s been showing up on the NJ Rare Bird Alert and people have been posting pictures of the Booby on the New Jersey Birders Facebook group. This is a very exciting event since New Jersey is extremely far from this bird’s normal range, but it’s not the first time there’s been a Brown Booby here. There was one a few years ago in Cape May.

We’ve had some pretty cool rare birds here in NJ recently. In the late winter it was a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, and recently Mississippi Kites have been nesting in Waretown, NJ. Unfortunately, I probably won’t have the opportunity to see this Brown Booby (Merrill Creek is about 2 hours away for me), but if this bird sticks around for a bit a trip may be possible.

I figured since Sea-shore Saturday is about either a seabird or a shorebird, it would be cool to learn about this interesting rare visitor.

Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster)


Brown Boobies are seabirds that stand around 30 inches. They have long necks, bodies, and wings. Adult Brown Boobies have brown heads/necks/upperparts and white bellies/vents/wing linings. The white contrast is very obvious and well-defined. Juveniles are browner overall.

Adult Brown Booby (Image via


Tropical waters in the pantropical (a term that covers tropical regions of all continents) Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They breed in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico islands. The only United State that they breed in is Hawaii. Brown Boobies are regular visitors of Dry Tortugas, Florida and rare visitors California.


Tropical oceans. Nests on sandy and rocky islands


Mainly squid and  fish, especially flying fish. They are aerial divers, so they plunge headfirst in the water to catch food. Sometimes they may hover in the air before diving or use a perch. They also catch flying fish above the water.

Breeding and Nesting:

Brown Boobies start to breed around the age of 4 and stay with their mate for many seasons. They have many courtship rituals, such as bill-touching, pointing bills skyward, and bowing. Nests are located on islands either on cliffs or on the ground. The nest is usually a shallow depression but may be lined with with materials found in the area. Both sexes assist in making a nest.  Brown Boobies are colonial breeders.

Brown Boobies lay 1-2 eggs per year, which are incubated by both parents for 40-47 days. The second egg that is laid usually will not survive. Young are fed by regurgitation. The time which a chick has its first flight varies from 84-119 days after hatching. The juvenile will return to the nest site to beg for food after its first flight for many weeks.

Brown boobies stake out positions atop the posts of an old pier at Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific. (Lindsey Hayes/USFWS)


Usually silent. During breeding they may give grunting or screeching calls.

Fun Facts:

  • Like other large seabirds, Brown Boobies are amazing and strong fliers. However, they are pretty clumsy at landing and take-off. They rely on the wind and perches to help them take-off from land.
  • Brown Boobies can plunge-dive from up to 50 feet in the air and dive up to 6 feet below the water’s surface.
  • They are known to follow fishing vessels and steal food from other birds.


Author: BirdNation

I am an avid birder, teacher, and nature lover. I primarily go birding in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but love to travel. I am currently a biology student with interests in conservation biology, ornithology, and environmental sciences. My dream is to go birding in all 50 states.

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