Great ex­cite­ment at Muri­wai booby


The red-footed booby has been sighted for the first time on New Zealand’s main­land.

The Sula sula is the small­est bird of the gan­net and booby fam­ily and was spot­ted at Muri­wai’s gan­net colony on Jan­uary 19 by Blair Outh­waite.

It has caused quite a stir amongst bird watch­ers as it is the sec­ond ever sight­ing recorded in New Zealand and the first on the main­land.

Te Papa bird ex­pert Dr Colin Miskelly said this was a re­mark­able sight­ing at the time as the bird had never been recorded in New Zealand be­fore. ‘‘To have one turn up on the main­land is just as­ton­ish­ing,’’ Miskelly said.

He said if the red-footed booby was reg­u­larly sighted at the Ker­madec Is­lands, it would be ex­pected that they would travel fur­ther south.

How­ever, as they were sighted for the first time only last year, it is sur­pris­ing that one has turned up so soon af­ter and so far south, Miskelly said.

Al­though the red-footed booby is rare to New Zealand, it is a fre­quent sea bird to the At­lantic, Pa­cific and In­dian oceans.

It is not con­sid­ered a threat­ened bird, but is vul­ner­a­ble to dis­tur­bance and hu­man pre­da­tion, Miskelly said. For th­ese rea­sons, the red-footed booby tends to nest on smaller and un­in­hab­ited ar­eas.

Miskelly said it is likely the bird has come from the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands based on its dark tail feath­ers.

He said when peo­ple see rare birds such as this one, a record must be sub­mit­ted to Birds New Zealand’s Records Ap­praisals Com­mit­tee for con­fir­ma­tion that it is in fact the red-footed booby. Outh­waite has sub­mit­ted a record, and Miskelly, a con­venor of the com­mit­tee, said there can be no doubt that this bird is a red-footed booby.

As well as the red-footed booby, there is also a blue-footed booby in the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands.

Miskelly said the boo­bies’ coloured feet are promi­nently dis­played dur­ing courtship and the rich­ness in colour is likely to be a sig­nal of health and breed­ing con­di­tion. He said this sea­son has been ‘‘quite re­mark­able’’ for un­usual birds turn­ing up in New Zealand.

‘‘Bird watch­ers are very ex­cited with all the un­usual things that are turn­ing up this sum­mer,’’ Miskelly said.


This is the first ever sight­ing of the red-footed booby on New Zealand’s main­land.

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