Boobies are among the most fascinating seabirds to be seen in the Galapagos. The blue-footed boobies are particularly common and may be seen nesting in rocks near the shore on most islands. They share a number of common traits with their cousins, the red-footed boobies and masked boobies, including forward-pointed eyes that allow stereo vision. This gives them the appearance of being cross-eyed when seen head on. This "silly" appearance, as well as their strange mating dance, led the Spaniards to call them bobos (clowns), hence the name boobie. While their appearance may be silly, they are spectacular and daring hunters. Their projectile-shaped body has evolved to allow them a very unusual fishing style. Spotting fish beneath the surface, they dive at great speed into the water and folding they wings just before entry, as the adjacent photo, taken in James Bay on Santiago, shows. Stereo vision allows them to follow fish underwater.
An axiom of ecology states that closely related species found in the same region must occupy different ecological niches. The three species of boobies illustrate this principle well. All three species are similar in size and differ only slightly in proportion, though they are easily distinguished by coloration. All three fish in a similar manner; however, they fish in different regions. Blue-footed boobies fish close to shore, masked boobies fish at intermediate distances, and red-foots fish far out to sea. The three species also nest in different areas. Blue-foots nest on low rocks near the shore, masked boobies on higher cliffs, and red-foots in trees in the more isolated islands. Thus there is no competition between these species.