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.