Masked booby

   ›      ›   Masked booby - Sula dactylatra.

The masked booby (Sula dactylatra) belongs to the family Sulidae. The masked booby species is distributed in Indian Ocean islands and Pacific Ocean islands.

Taxonomy of Masked booby

  • Scientific Name: Sula dactylatra
  • Common Name: Masked booby
  • French: Fou masqué; German: Maskentölpel; Spanish: Piquero enmascarado;
  • Other names: masked gannet;
  • Family: Sulidae › Suliformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Lesson, 1831)
Sula dactylatra species is closely related to Nazca booby, (Sula granti) and brown booby (S. leucogaster). The four subspecies are: S. d. dactylatra Lesson, 1831, S. d. melanops Hartlaub, 1859, S. d. personata Gould, 1846 and S. d. tasmani van Tets et al., 1988.

Indian birds - Masked booby - Sula dactylatra
Indian birds - Masked booby - Sula dactylatra


The masked booby species is a large bird, measuring 80 to 90 cm in length and weighing 1,200 to 2,300 grams. The wingspan is 150 cm. Adult booby species are white with pointed black wings, a pointed black tail and a dark grey face mask. The male booby has a yellow bill and the female has a greenish yellow bill. Breeding booby has a patch of bare bluish skin at the base of the bill. The juveniles are brown on the head and upper parts. These booby birds make whistling calls at the breeding grounds. They also make a wide range of hissing and quacking sounds.


The masked booby species breed on isolated islands. The rest of the time they are seen foraging in the sea.

Feeding habits

The masked booby species are strictly marine and are good divers. They feed both by diving as well as plucking the prey out of water. They feed on shoaling fish, flying fish and squid.


The masked booby species nest in small colonies on sandy beaches and cliff ledges. The nest is a shallow depression. Two white eggs are laid and both parents take turns to incubate. Both the parents feed the chicks. The older stronger chick usually kills the weaker one.


The subspecies S. d. dactylatra breeds on islands in Caribbeans and north coast of South America. The subspecies S. d. melanops occurs in islands of Red Sea and Indian Ocean. The subspecies S. d. personata breeds in islands in Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean. The subspecies S. d. tasmani breeds in islands in Tasman Sea.

Movement Patterns

The masked booby is a fairly sedentary bird, wintering at sea, but rarely seen far away from the breeding colonies.

Status and conservation

The global population size of masked booby birds has not been quantified, but the species has large range and population. They are considered least vulnerable. Introduced animals and fishing activities near the breeding grounds are the major threats to conservation of the booby species.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these booby species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Sula dactylatra
Species:S. dactylatra
Binomial name:Sula dactylatra
Distribution:Indian Ocean, Red Sea and Pacific Ocean;
Feeding habits:squid, flying fish and other fish;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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