The Flight of the Boobies

Pillar Point Harbor, on the San Mateo County coast, is a Mecca for avian ratites. I mean the sort of rarites that makes a birder want to jump in their car and drive all night or book a last minute flight to the west coast. A drop-everything-and- go rarity.

A prime example was the Ross’s gull that showed up on Thursday January 12, 2017 and stayed until it was taken by a pair of peregrine falcons on Saturday afternoon. This is a mega rarity and only the second record in the lower 48.

I saw my first booby in Pillar Point. A brown booby had flown into the harbor in January 2003 and perched on the breakwater.

There are six species of boobies. The name comes from the Spanish word bobo, meaning “stupid” or “clown”. This refers to their tame disposition. Because they show little fear towards humans, there were easy to capture and kill for food.

Almost fifteen years later, another booby flew into Pillar Point Harbor. This time it was the smallest species of booby, a native to southern tropical waters , the red-footed booby (Sula sula).

With climate change, will we see more equatorial birds coming into Pillar Point to rest and be seen by birds former and wide? We can only hope to see the silver lining.

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