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#ABArare – probable Nazca Booby – California

While on a Harbor Breeze Tours whale-watching trip out of Long Beach on June 27, Tim Hammond found and photographed what was initially identified as a Masked Booby about four miles off of Palos Verdes in Los Angeles County waters. Subsequent study of the photos suggest that the bird looks good for Nazca Booby, which would be a potential first ABA Area record.

Photo by Tim Hammond, used with permission

Photo by Tim Hammond/Harbor Breeze Tours, used with permission

More photos by Tim Hammond available here.

Subsequent trips to look for the bird in the vicinity of the initial sighting have been thus far unsuccessful, but there are reportedly many Masked Boobies in the area so it may still be in the area.

Nazca Booby was formerly considered conspecific with the very similar Masked Booby, but differs from the latter in a couple notable ways. Adult Nazca Boobies tend to have a orangy-pink tone to the bill, whereas Masked Booby is more greenish-yellow. Immature birds are more difficult, and there are a handful of young boobies seen in California over the years about which birders were unable to make the distinction.

Nazca Booby has been conclusively reported in the ABA Area one time before, an immature individual which rode a boat into San Diego county from adjacent Mexican waters in 2001. While ABA rules do not preclude ship-assistance as a valid means of arriving to the ABA Area, the bird was not accepted by the California Bird Records Committee and therefore, never considered by the ABA Checklist Committee.

Nazca Booby breeds primarily on the Galapagos Islands but also as far north as the Revillagigedo Islands SSE of Baja California, Mexico (the largest of which is Socorro). Boobies are strong flyers and prone to dispersal, so the species may be more regular in ABA Area waters than the records would suggest, but because of the aforementioned identification difficulties it goes unnoticed. Birders have noted that the strong El Niño predicted this summer and currently forming, may create conditions conducive to movements of southerly birds towards the ABA Area, as evidenced not only by this bird, but an early influx of Craveri’s Murrelets and Masked Boobies in southern California waters.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
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