Red-footed Booby ~ a rare vagrant
East Coast of India

Suman Karmakar; Soumen Ghosh, Dr. Anindita Bhadra; Sumit Sen

Other Pelagic Vagrants

The Red-footed Booby is a large marine species which lives in tropical and subtropical islands around the world. At 71cms, it is the smallest of all boobies. Red-footed boobies come in various colour morphs. The bird in the image above displays the white morph where the plumage is mostly white with black flight feathers.

Red-footed boobies nest colonially in small trees and shrubs, unlike most other ground-nesting boobies. The name 'booby' is derived from the slang for stupid, a trait which allowed them to be captured while asleep.

India has records of 3 booby species. Of these the Red-footed is least recorded. Pamela Rasmussen in Birds of South Asia (Vol-II, page 51) describes the occurrence of "One specimen Bay of Bengal, and old uncertain sight report of a flock, Lakshadweep". Birdlife International 2009, however, describes them as 'native' to India and elsewhere.

Unless there are other unpublished records, this sighting represents the 1st physical record of the species from mainland India.

Threat status: Least Concern

Sighting Record

Name: Red-footed Booby

Scientific name:
Sula sula

Date: 11th May 2011

Place: New Digha, West Bengal, India.

21° 37.012'N / 87° 29.881'E

Reported by: Various people where involved in reporting this species to us. The list is as under:
Shashank Dalvi: Sent the initial report to Birds of India having received the news from Hari Sridhar.
Dr. Anindita Bhadra of IISER, Kolkata: Dr Bhadra sent out a request for identification after receiving a mail from Suman Karmakar and Soumen Ghosh, both of Digha Science Centre & National Sc. Camp, New Digha, West Bengal, India.
Suman Karmakar and Soumen Ghosh: The rescued bird was photographed by Mr. Karmakar and sent out for identification by Mr. Ghosh.

Collection record: Dr. Bhadra, in her mail dated 12/5/2011 mentions the collection details, and I quote: "I have received this image from a friend at the Digha Science Centre. Digha is a small sea-side town in West Bengal. A policeman brought them this bird yesterday. They had found it somewhere in the town. The bird looks like a chick, probably of some migratory bird. It just sits wherever it is put, does not show any interest to go towards the water (they have a tank for ducks at the Centre). It eats only if some fish is put inside its beak. They would be glad if someone can identify the bird and tell them what to do with it. Can anyone help?". By the time a response could be sent, the bird died.

Additional notes: 1. David James, an Ornithologist, and expert on birds of Christmas Island had this to add: "The booby looks like an adult female, based on bareparts colours. The extent of golden tint to the head and neck and especially the rear scapulars may indicate that the bird originates from Christmas Island, though I'm not sure how golden the white morph can be in other locations in the Indian Ocean." [Pers comm email dated 18/7/11]
2. It appears that the weather in the northern Indian Ocean was normal around the time of the recovery.

Kolkata, India

References and acknowledgements:
1. Suman Karmakar and Soumen Ghosh of Digha Science Centre for sharing the report and the image
2. Dr. Anindita Bhadra of IISER for reporting the bird and sharing vital information
3. Shashank Dalvi and Hari Sridhar for passing on the information to us.
Birds of South Asia - The Ripley Guide ~ Pamela C. Rasmussen
5. Birdlife International Red-footed Booby page

Image copyright: Photographer
Recommended citation:
Birds of India ( Red-footed Booby - a rare vagrant 2011 at by S. Karmakar, S.  Ghosh, Dr. A. Bhadra &  S. Sen


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