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Overview

Distribution

Range Description

This species ranges widely in tropical waters, being found in every ocean on or off nearly every coast except the eastern Atlantic, northern Indian Ocean and the central-eastern Pacific (del Hoyo et al. 1992).
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circum-(sub)tropical
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Masked boobies are fairly widespread; they are found primarily in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In the United States they are restricted to the three Hawaiian islands of Lehau, Moku Manu and Kaula. They are found mainly in the tropics. Masked boobies are found off the Yucatan peninsula and in much of South America. There are a variety of boobies with different ranges, but masked boobies are found on many islands between 30 degrees N and 30 degrees S, with tiny habitats from the Pacific to the Red Sea, and even on islands near Indonesia and Australia.

Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native ); oceanic islands (Native )

  • Anderson, D. 1993. Sula dactylatra - Masked Booby. The Birds of North America, No. 73, 1993: 1-16.
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: Atlantic-Caribbean: Islands off Yucatan, Cayman Islands, southwest of Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Florida Keys (Dry Tortugas, occasionally), Lesser Antilles, off Venezuela and Brazil and east to Ascension Island (AOU 1998, Clapp and Buckley 1984); in West Indies, an extremely local resident, generally seen only in breeding areas and adjacent seas (Raffaele 1983). Pacific: Islands off western Mexico, from the Hawaiian (Kure to Kaula Rock, and Moku Manu) and Ryukyu Islands south to eastern Australia and the Kermadec, Tuamotu, and Easter Islands, and islands off Peru and Chile. Indian Ocean: from the Gulf of Aden and Cocos-Keeling and Christmas Islands south to the Mascarenes and northwestern Australia. Formerly in the southern Bahamas (AOU 1998, 2000). RANGES AT SEA: from Bahamas and the Yucatan south through breeding range, and generally thoughout breeding range in Pacific and Indian Oceans south to western Mexico, eastern Australia, and South Africa (AOU 1998). Some old sight reports may refer to S. GRANTI (AOU 2000).

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Physical Description

Morphology

Masked boobies are graceful birds, their body is white, they have black on thier wings and tails and a black mask around their beak and eyes. They are the biggest species of boobies. Females are larger than males, ranging from 75 to 86 cm long, males are from 74 to 82 cm long. They weigh from 1220 to 2353 g and have wingspans of 152 cm, on average. It is difficult to tell males and females apart because they both have bright white plumage as adults; young boobies are often mistaken for northern gannets (Morus bassanus). Masked boobies are born naked but are completely covered with feathers after 35 to 40 days. Juveniles are grey with white underparts and do not look like adults until their fourth year.

Range mass: 1220 to 2353 g.

Range length: 74 to 86 cm.

Average wingspan: 152 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; female larger

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Average basal metabolic rate: 5.5209 W.

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Size

Length: 91 cm

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Diagnostic Description

Description

Length: 81-92 cm. Colour: adult white with black flight feathers and tail; facial and gular skin blackish to dark blue-grey; bill orange to yellow-green with black at base; legs and feet grey; eye yellow; immature dark grey-brown above with a dark brown head and white collar; underside of wings white with broad dark trailing edge and dark band parallel to leading edge; bill olive to pale horn. Habitat: open ocean. Distribution: Palaeartic migrant (<313><316><318>)
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This strictly marine species can normally be found over pelagic waters, preferring deeper waters than other boobies. It feeds on large species of shoaling fish, especially flying fish, but will also take large squid. Its breeding season depends on locality, forming small to medium-sized colonies of variable densities on rocky islands offshore. Nests are preferably built on cliff ledges, but a variety of other sites are used (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Systems
  • Marine
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Depth range based on 255 specimens in 2 taxa.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 219 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): 16.316 - 28.632
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.050 - 3.497
  Salinity (PPS): 32.479 - 36.472
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.363 - 5.685
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.056 - 0.435
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.769 - 4.671

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): 16.316 - 28.632

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.050 - 3.497

Salinity (PPS): 32.479 - 36.472

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.363 - 5.685

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.056 - 0.435

Silicate (umol/l): 0.769 - 4.671
 
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Boobies prefer to live on small, flat islands without trees. They often nest on the edges of cliffs or in flat areas that allow for easy take-off. They spend much of their time foraging over the ocean far from land.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: pelagic ; coastal

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Comments: Pelagic. Prefers warm deep waters (Stiles and Skutch 1989). In West Indies, generally in seas adjacent to breeding areas (Raffaele 1983). Frequently perches on floating debris in drift lines (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989). Roosts and Nests exclusively on smaller oceanic islands, especially flat, unforested terrain within 30 degrees of the Equator.

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Depth range based on 255 specimens in 2 taxa.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 219 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): 16.316 - 28.632
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.050 - 3.497
  Salinity (PPS): 32.479 - 36.472
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.363 - 5.685
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.056 - 0.435
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.769 - 4.671

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): 16.316 - 28.632

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.050 - 3.497

Salinity (PPS): 32.479 - 36.472

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.363 - 5.685

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.056 - 0.435

Silicate (umol/l): 0.769 - 4.671
 
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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Boobies have a diet consisting mostly of fish and squid. They catch their prey by diving from heights of up to 30 m. When collecting food for offspring, boobies usually tend to stay closer to land, otherwise they hunt around 65 km from shore.

Animal Foods: fish; mollusks

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Molluscivore )

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Comments: Dives from air to water surface; eats mostly fishes, also squid. Flying fishes are preferred food (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

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Associations

Because masked boobies do not occur in dense populations, they do not seriously affect fish populations where they feed, nor are they important food sources for predators.

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There are no known predators of masked boobies. Because they are not usually found in dense populations and because they nest on islands, it might be hard for predators to rely on them as prey.

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Known prey organisms

Sula dactylatra preys on:
Actinopterygii
Mollusca

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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General Ecology

Nonbreeding: usually solitary or in small loose groups (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Males have a high-pitched whistle while females have a more "honky" sounding call. Males will communicate by calling during their courtship displays or when they are frightened or alarmed. Females only call for help and as a warning. Both sexes are usually silent at night.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Masked Boobies have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years; the longest known lifespan is 20 years.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
15 to 20 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
306 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 25.5 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Boobies have intricate mating rituals; males attract females by stretching out their necks and presenting gifts such as small stones and feathers to their perspective mates. After a slow walk they copulate; copulation takes ten to twenty seconds, and the female begins incubating immediately after laying the first egg.

Mating System: monogamous

Breeding seasons vary widely throughout the range of masked boobies; they can occur from February to August, January to July, and August to March. Masked boobies nest colonially; their nests are small hollows in the ground. The female usually lays two eggs. Incubation lasts 43 days on average. Masked boobies do not have brood patches, so they incubate the eggs with their feet. The first chick to hatch kicks the second chick out of the nest, so parents raise only one offspring. The chick fledges in 109 to 151 days and is intependent in one to two months. Juveniles reach sexual maturity in 3 to 5 years.

Breeding season: Breeding seaons vary widely throughout the range of masked boobies.

Range eggs per season: 1 to 2.

Average eggs per season: 1.

Average time to hatching: 43 days.

Range fledging age: 109 to 151 days.

Range time to independence: 1 to 2 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 to 5 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 to 5 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average eggs per season: 1.

Both males and femles incubate the eggs. The first chick to hatch kicks the second chick out of the nest, so the parents only raise one offspring. Chicks are usually fed only once or twice a day. Both parents feed their young, but females may bring more food to the nest than males. Both parents continue to protect and feed their chick for one to two months after it fledges.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; altricial ; pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Anderson, D. 1993. Sula dactylatra - Masked Booby. The Birds of North America, No. 73, 1993: 1-16.
  • Kepler, C. 1969. Breeding Biology of the Blue-Faced Booby on Green Island, Kure Atoll. Cambridge, MA: Nuttall Ornithological Club.
  • National Wildlife Refuge, 2000. "Masked Booby" (On-line). Accessed April 20, 2004 at http://midway.fws.gov/wildlife/mabo.html.
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In Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, egg-laying apparently peaks in January-June and September-November; January-May in Hawaii; may nest any month. Clutch size is 1-2 (usually 2). Incubation, by both sexes, lasts 41-43 days. One nestling survives. Young are tended by both sexes, first flies at about 102 days.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Sula dactylatra

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

CCTATACCTAATCTTCGGCGCCTGAGCTGGTATAGTTGGAACAGCACTCAGCCTACTCATCCGAGCAGAACTAGGCCAACCTGGAACTCTCCTAGGAGATGATCAAATCTACAATGTAATTGTTACCGCTCATGCCTTCGTAATAATCTTTTTTATAGTAATACCAATCATAATCGGAGGATTTGGAAACTGACTAGTGCCACTCATAATTGGTGCTCCTGACATAGCATTCCCACGCATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTCCCACCATCCTTCCTACTCCTTCTAGCCTCATCAACGGTAGAAGCAGGCGCGGGTACGGGATGAACTGTATACCCCCCATTAGCTGGAAACCTAGCCCACGCTGGAGCTTCAGTCGACCTAGCCATCTTCTCCCTTCACCTAGCAGGTGTCTCCTCCATCCTAGGAGCAATCAACTTTATTACAACTGCAATCAACATAAAACCTCCAGCTCTCTCACAATACCAAACCCCACTATTCGTTTGATCAGTCCTCATTACCGCCGTCCTACTACTACTCTCACTCCCAGTCCTCGCCGCTGGCATTACCATACTCTTAACGGACCGAAACCTAAACACCACATTTTTCGACCCTGCAGGAGGAGGAGACCCAGTACTATACCAGCACCTCNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Sula dactylatra

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2015

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.


History
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
  • Not Recognized (NR)
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