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.
Yesterday, while driving along the backroads between Bragg Creek and Cochrane, my wife and I noticed two fluffy balls popping up from a huge nest that I thought was still abandoned. We could see from the edge of the road that they were Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) owlets so we waited a few minutes to get a sense of that stand of trees and whether the parents were nearby. I walked to the fence dividing the ditch from the forest and with a long lens coupled to an extender was able to get some nice images without getting these adolescents worked up.
Below is the view of the nest from the road
I have watched this nest for a couple of years and this is the first time I have seen chicks being raised in it. I hope this pair make this a summer home and return every year. Now, to see about photographs of the family together…