Bocas del Toro Sea Birds: Brown Booby

Birding Panama

Brown Boobies are found in tropical waters of both oceans. They nest in colonies, on small isolated islands, often with only a little vegetation and very pronounced cliffs. Boobies are part of the Sulidae sea birds family, which includes boobies and gannets. Gannets are not found in Panama, but the boobies are well represented.

Boobies have air sacks under their skin, on their face that protects them from impact every time they dive into the water, looking for food, mainly fish.

A few day ago we did a birding trip, and part of the day was to see a nesting colony of these amazing birds. We got to see juveniles in different stages of development. It was a great experience. It always gives me hope to see a new generation coming along. This time, for me, was the first time I got to see and photograph two adults “making” a nests.

Western Caribbean SlopePanama WildlifeBirdwatching PanamaThey build their nest on the ground. Boobies use a diverse set of material to build their nest, including sticks, grass, leaves and sometimes human debris. They often lay more than one egg, usually two, but they never raise both of the chicks. The biggest one is the one that will survive. Both of the parents take care of the incubation of the eggs, but when the chick gets bigger or starts to fly just the father stays in the nest.

Panama BirdingWhen the chicks are first-born they are featherless. Then they get a white down that they lose and then develop light brown feathers that are different from the adults. The juvenile has pale under wing coverts and their beak and feet are dull gray. The development process takes about 90 days. At the end of this period is when they are ready to make their first flight. Finally, the adult plumage with mostly brown feathers and white breast, belly and rump is acquired.

Panama WildlifeThe populations of this very curious bird is decreasing globally, mainly due to the introduction of non-native of species to these special nesting grounds. Pigs have been one of the biggest problems on many of the islands where these animals nest, but also human expansion and irresponsible tourism.

Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) References:

Villareal, Orias, Johnny, Pereira, chaves, José y Salazar, Chacón. 2012. Colonia de piqueros morenos (Sula leucogaster) del Caribe sur, Costa Rica: una supervivencia amenazada. Zeledonia 14:1. Available in:


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

2 thoughts on “Bocas del Toro Sea Birds: Brown Booby

  1. Natalia,

    Can I contact you at this address to request information about a photo found on the TB Blog?

    Ken Huff
    Mount Dora, Florida

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