Masked boobies (Sula dactylatra)
Price Cay, Swains Reefs, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Raine Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Phillip Island, Norfolk Island, Australia
Masked boobies are the largest of all Sulidae and display reverse sexual dimorphism with females being larger than males. This species is wide-ranging in tropical pelagic waters, and is found in throughout the western Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. They prefer to forage in deeper water than other Suliade and often preferentially feed flying fish or other on large schooling fish or squid. Across the Great Barrier Reef masked boobies nest on sand cays and islands such as Raine Island in the north and the Swains Reefs in the south.
My study involves tracking chick-rearing adults on foraging trips which generally last approximately half a day but can be 24-72 hours away from the chick. I hope to ascertain overlap with foraging locations of other species such as wedge-tailed shearwaters and identify oceanographic factors of influence over foraging patterns and locations for the boobies.
I will also collaborate with Dr Julia Sommerfeld (UTas) on a study investigating trans-Oceanic foraging strategies, with emphasis on how specific environmental parameters might modulate their foraging strategies and to which extent phenotypic plasticity at both population and individual based levels may confound the findings.