It used to be a rare treat for Channel Islanders to spot the brown booby, a tropical bird known for its 50-foot plunges to feed on surface fish. Last week, however, Channel Islands National Park biologists confirmed the first hatchling in an active nest on Sutil Rock off Santa Barbara Island.
The brown booby had been spotted on the Channel Islands only 16 times between 1984 and 2014. The closest breeding colony is located 180 miles south, on Baja’s Coronado Islands, which is itself the result of a northward migration since the 1990s. The migration is consistent with changes in prey availability and rising ocean temperatures.
“Seabirds rely upon the rich marine resources and the isolation of these offshore islands to provide food and undisturbed nesting grounds safe from predators,” said Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Ethan McKinley. “With this successful brown booby nest, there are now 14 breeding seabirds that rely upon this vital habitat” at S.B. and Anacapa islands.
Although the booby population has soared locally, it has decreased worldwide because new predators have been introduced to many of the islands the birds inhabit, hurting their ability to nest.