Manteñito

Hi, my name is Manteñito and I’m a Nazca Booby. Sometimes, the other fledglings call me Big Bird. I’m pretty outgoing and enjoy getting to know new people. When the photographer took my photo I followed her down the trail and tried to start up a conversation, but my parents wouldn’t stop yelling at me until I returned. Oh well, when I get older, and can fly, I will be able to do what I want.

My parents and I live on the Escalera Trail on La Plata Island, located approximately twenty-four miles northwest of Salango, a small coastal fishing village on the Ecuadorian mainland. The Escalera Trail is a fairly urban area, as far as bird habitats are concerned. Our species always lives in colonies. Most of my relatives live on La Plata Island, either on the Machete Trail, to the west, or the Escalera Trail on the eastern part of the island. I also have quite a few relatives living in the Galapagos. The Escalera Point area is fairly quiet, so we do well here. Occasionally, we see people, but not as often as our cousins on the Machete Trail, which is the trail most tourists take on La Plata Island. The Machete Trail is only a 2.5-hour walk as opposed to Escalera’s 3.5 hour walk.

You’re probably wondering how we got our name. The “booby” part originates from the Spanish word bobo, which means fool or clown. We are an easy-going, comical type of species and our parents do this funny mating dance. All of these reasons are why they call us bobos. Nazca is a region and town in southern Peru named after the ancient Nazca culture that occupied that area between 300 B.C. and 800 A.D. It also refers to the Nazca tectonic plate under the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean, to the west of South America. The northwest corner of the Nazca Plate includes the Galapagos Islands. We are named “Nazca” Boobies, because our species is located primarily in the Nazca Plate region.

Sula granti is out Latin name. For a long time, we were considered a sub-species of the Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra), but, recently, we were declared our own species. One physical difference is that we have orange beaks and the Masked Boobies have yellow beaks. Our genus name, Sula, means “valley of the birds” in the Honduran dialect of Usula. We belong to the bird family Sulidae, which is made up of boobies and gannets. We all live near the coast and are called plunge-divers because we drop down from the sky like a missile and dive anywhere from three to six feet into the water to catch our meal. Our efficient diving technique allows us to catch the fish before they even know what hit them. “Granti” probably refers to the name of a researcher who studied us. By the way, humans also have a Latin name, Homo sapiens. Homo means man and sapiens means wise or knowing.

My Older Cousin

The Nazca species is fairly united and generally lives in colonies near the sea, but fishes further offshore than, say, the Blue-footed Boobies. Our parents build our nests inland on flat unvegetated ground. So, when there are heavy rains and the plants grow like crazy, like earlier this year, real estate is at a premium. Many adults build their nests on or very close to the trail. Fortunately, the tourists are usually considerate and walk off the trail through the vegetation, around us.

After we are dropped out in the form of an egg, our parents take turns keeping us warm until we emerge, approximately forty-two days later. Of course, when we hatch we don’t know how to fly, just like humans aren’t born walking. During the time we are learning how to fly we are called fledglings, similar to how human babies are called toddlers, while they are learning to walk. In order to fly, we need to takeoff from the edge of a cliff. So, there are many well-worn paths leading to cliff edges.

Me and My Mom

Our moms usually lay two eggs. One egg is a backup, known as an “insurance” egg. If the first-born is healthy and isn’t snatched up by a local predator, such as a sea gull, it is the only chick fed and nurtured by the parents. The second hatchling only has the opportunity to live if the first-born doesn’t survive. If the first-born makes it, our unfortunate sibling is abandoned and left to die. It’s a jungle out there and, in our world, it really is survival of the fittest. On a brighter note, both our parents are dedicated to raising whoever remains until we are capable of being independent. Generally, we require 100-120 days of constant care before we can venture out on our own. As with humans, there is a high divorce rate among the Nazca species. Over 50% of Nazca females eventually end up with another mate after a few breeding seasons, so we have lots of stepbrothers and stepsisters.

Me and My Parents

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One response to “Manteñito

  1. well done! soooo enjoyable….see you in June…

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