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Rare Birds in Spain
Identification

newThe Red-footed Booby off Estepona, Málaga, August 2010, 1st for Spain.

Photos and text by John Hopkins & Jane Hopkins

Comments & photos edited by Ricard Gutiérrez

Introduction 

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.

Description

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.


Plumage: The  head and  neck are  pale  brown  with a  hint of  yellowish  colour on  the  crown. Below  this  is a  paler  breast band  which  appears to  be  quite  sharply  demarcated  from  the  darker  lower  breast and  belly. There  may be  a paler  area  under  the  tail. The  underwing  seems  fairly  uniformly  dark,  but  in one  photograph there is a  suggestion  of a  dark  carpal  patch  and   some paleness  around  the  primaries. The  upperparts  are  not  very clear but seem  dark.

Discussion

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.

John Hopkins

Editorial comments

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.

Photographs

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.

Sulsul Figure 1
Red-footed Booby [Piquero patirrojo] (Sula sula). Estepona, Málaga, 11.8.2010

SulsulFigure 2
Red-footed Booby [Piquero patirrojo] (Sula sula). Estepona, Málaga, 11.8.2010

SulsulFigure 3
Red-footed Booby [Piquero patirrojo] (Sula sula). Estepona, Málaga, 11.8.2010
Note, left to right, red feet, position of eye in relatoin to facial skin, with half out, malar feathering and culmen shape (ed. comment)

SulsulFigure 4
Red-footed Booby [Piquero patirrojo] (Sula sula). Estepona, Málaga, 11.8.2010

SulsulFigure 5
Red-footed Booby [Piquero patirrojo] (Sula sula). Estepona, Málaga, 11.8.2010

Sulsul Figure 6
Red-footed Booby [Piquero patirrojo] (Sula sula). Estepona, Málaga, 11.8.2010


Acknowledgements

Thanks to John Hopkins and Andy Paterson for supporting this website.


Citation
Hopkins, j & Hopkins, J. 2010. The Red-footed Booby off Estepona, Málaga, August 2010, 1st for Spain. Rare Birds in Spain. Retrieved from http://www.rarebirdspain.net/arbsi035.htm 





 

 

The Red-footed Booby off Estepona, Málaga, August 2010, 1st for Spain.

Summary:
Introduction
Description
Discussion
Editorial Comments
Photographs
Acknowledgements
Citation


 

 

 




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