A wayward seabird with a quirky name — the blue-footed booby — has flown far from its domain along the Gulf of California and settled for the past couple of weeks at Patagonia Lake, northeast of Nogales.
“It’s just a thrill to see it,” said Candy Bowen, assistant manager of Patagonia Lake State Park. “I’ve seen it flying around the west end of the lake, and it was spotted (Thursday) right in front of the visitor center.”
It’s been at the lake since about Aug. 15, Bowen said.
Boobies are about 32 inches long with a long, pointed bill, and they have vibrant blue feet when they reach adulthood. They are in the pelican family of birds.
The birds normally range from the Gulf of California down the eastern Pacific along the coasts of Central and South America. But they sometimes show up along the West Coast of the United States, and on rare occasions they’re seen at inland lakes in California and Arizona.
Blue-footed boobies were among the species sought by competitive birders in a 2011 bird-watching movie called “The Big Year.”
The sightings at Patagonia Lake apparently mark a booby breakthrough for this part of the state.
“This is the first one documented in Southeast Arizona, and there have been fewer than 10 documented in the whole state of Arizona,” said Jennie MacFarland, conservation biologist with the Tucson Audubon Society.
MacFarland said bird-watchers have, well, flocked to see the Patagonia Lake booby, which is a young bird and therefore hasn’t yet developed the bright blue-colored feet characteristic of adult boobies.
“Word got out fast, and people have been going to see it because it’s an exciting bird,” MacFarland said.
“We don’t know why it’s here in Southeast Arizona,” she said. “But juvenile birds tend to wander, and the lake has fish.”