Hawaiian Wildlife: Kilauea’s Sula Sula Birds
The Sula sula is commonly known as the Red-footed Booby. This bird is the smallest in the Sula family with a wingspan of up to one metre and a body length about 2/3’s of that. They are seabirds who are acrobatic fliers and are relatively common across the tropics. They spend most of their time at sea but breed and raise their chicks in large colonies. One of the great nesting sites for this close relative of the Gannet family is at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai’s northeastern shore. During my stay on Kauai I made time to get out to the viewing platform beside the colony three times and enjoyed each visit enormously.
The nests are built in trees clinging to a steep cliff side which makes up one side of a ravine that drops into the ocean and is battered by waves through most of the winter. The cluster of birds in the image above show the lowest part of the colony, closest to the water. Across from this cliff is the Kilauea Lighthouse which faces the colony from the far side of the ravine and makes a great subject on its own in addition to playing a supporting role in the rainbow bird image below.
The warm, morning light illuminating the rainbow also shared its magical touch with this image of one of the birds where it was perched above the waves facing the nests.
At times, courtship involving skirmishes, flybys and the exchanges of sticks (presumably symbolic of the nest) took place on branches less than 25 metres away. It was interesting to watch this behaviour and the landings that could easily be thought to be out of control.
And moments of quiet between or despite the action. Those were some of the photographs I enjoyed making the most.