Birds in Spain
Photos and text by John Hopkins & Jane Hopkins
Comments & photos edited by Ricard Gutiérrez
On Wednesday evening of 11 August, 2010, my wife and I were having an evening stroll along the paseo maritimo at Bahía Dorada, which is just west of Estepona (Málaga), photographing flowers and scenery when the bird in the attached photos flew past. I had been trying to photograph Yellow-legged Gulls in flight and assumed that this was another one flying towards us, so swung my camera up ready to take pictures…but soon realised that , although the same size as the gulls, it wasn’t one. It virtually flew along the shoreline, only giving me time for 5 very quick photos with a 200mm lens on my SLR. It was obvious from its size and jizz that it was a very small Sulid, certainly not a Gannet. Regrettably I was not carrying binoculars with me but the bird was sufficiently close to see the details given and which are also visible in the photographs.
Size and flight: About the size of the Yellow-legged Gulls that were also flying West around the same time but with steady, quite fast and noticeably deep wing beats.
Bill & eye: The bill is two-tone, apparently pinkish with a dark tip. The eye is large and dark and there appears to be bare skin around it.
Feet & legs: All the photographs show a reddish area near the undertail coverts which corresponds to the location of the legs and feet.
I was certain that this bird was a Booby , and a small one at that and felt that from the colouration it had to be a Red-footed Booby. I have sent the photographs to Richard Millington ( who agreed that it was a Booby sp.) and Andy Paterson ( who , like me, thought it was a Red-footed) and now formally submit it as such. The bill colour suggests that the bird is not fully adult ( or at least non-breeding) but otherwise the plumage closely resembles the brown morph. The breast band is more indicative of a first year bird, so maybe the best guess is that this bird is sub-adult….but I suspect that a lot of birds cannot be aged…this species is extremely variable.
While red feet is diagnostic for Red-footed Booby, the observed pattern of bill and head matches the species as well (Pyle,P. 2008, Identification Guide to North American Birds. Slate Creek Press), with the eye half out the bare skin area of the bill, see figure 3. Sula sula presents 3 subspecies, nominate in the Caribbean and SW Atlantic, websteri in the E Pacific and rubripes in the rest of Pacific and Indian Ocean (del Hoyo, J et al 1992, HBW vol.1 , Lynx Eds.).Most probable form recorded is therefore the nominal that has been recorded in Cape Verde (Snow, D.W. & Perrins, C.M. 1998 BWP Concise Edition Oxford UP).Albeit quoted to be present in Norwegian list, it does not appear in its latest edition. Hence, this record, if accepted, could become the 1st for Spain and Europe. This observation has already been submitted to the CR-SEO/BirdLife, the Spanish Rarities Committee.
All photos © John Hopkins. Original images (IMG_6844 to IMG_6848.jpg) have been treated by editor with Adobe Photoshop CS2 increasing brightness by an average of 45% and contrast by c.35% and cropped to 570 pixels side at 100% original size except figure 3 (c.250% size). CR-SEO/BirdLife holds the original files with Tiff & Exif original data.
Thanks to John Hopkins and Andy Paterson for supporting this website.
The Red-footed Booby off Estepona, Málaga, August 2010, 1st for Spain.