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Abbott's Booby - Christmas Is. Rarity

Abbott's Booby - Christmas Is. Rarity
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2006-04-25
Categories: Birds
Camera: Canon 1D Mark II, Canon EF 300mm f2.8 USM IS
Exposure: f/6.3, 1/640 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
Theme(s): Endangered, Christmas Island [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2007-06-03 9:28
Viewed: 9961
Points: 20
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
I took this shot during my trip to Christmas Island over Easter 2006. This was not the nesting time for the Abbott’s Booby and most birds were at sea, nonetheless, a few remained on the Island. I was told by several people where to find them (near a junction on the phosphate road on the plateau), but I had to have them pointed out to me. Once I had seen them, it was a case of ‘how did I miss them’. They look superficially like the Masked/Nazca Booby of the Galapagos, but are bigger and have a ‘clump’ of what seems to be loose feathers on the back of the head.

They were difficult to photograph as they were at the top of rainforest emergent trees. I did not have a tripod as the plane from Perth was small and I had had to get special permission to take my camera kit anyway (my 300mm 2.8 has its own case anyway), so this was handheld with a 1.4 converter. I have cropped the original shot quite drastically, then used levels and sharpned the image. Conditions were tropical high cloud i.e. harsh white light. (ORIGINAL IN WORKSHOP).

The Abbott’s Booby (Papasula abbotti) is a large endangered seabird of the gannet family, Sulidae. Found normally only on and around Christmas Island (an Australian territory in the eastern Indian Ocean), it is the sole member of the genus Papasula.
The Abbott’s Booby has a length of about 79 cm and a weight of about 1460 g. Its black and white plumage is distinct from that of other sulids in the region. Parent birds may only be able to breed from about eight years old, with successful breeding no more frequently than once every two years, and a potential lifespan of 40 years.

It now breeds only on Christmas Island, although formerly it bred on other Indian Ocean islands. At sea it is mainly seen in the waters around Christmas Island. There is fossil evidence of its presence in the South Pacific. In April 2007 an individual of this species was photographed at a booby colony on Rota in the Pacific Ocean.

It nests in emergent trees in rainforest, laying a single egg, mainly in June or July. Growth of the chick is slow, with most chicks making their first flight in December or January, and remaining dependent on the parent birds for food for about the next 230 days. Adult birds feed on fish and squid and feed the chicks by regurgitation.

The Abbott’s Booby is considered to be an Endangered species. The population is estimated to be about 3000 birds and decreasing. On Christmas Island, threats include cyclones, degradation of breeding habitat and Yellow Crazy Ants (introduced and affecting the Red Crabs also). Offshore potential threats are overfishing and marine pollution.

Much of its breeding habitat was destroyed by phosphate mining in the 1960s and 1970s. Last week a plan to expand the phosphate mines was finally rejected, so the future may be a bit brighter.

Christmas Island is located 2,600 Km north of Perth, but only 360 Km from Java. The island is the summit of a submarine mountain rising steeply to the central plateau. The island only covers 135 km2.

Argus, nglen, deblink, PaulH, SelenE, delic, Finland_in_Eton has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • trinko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 587 W: 78 N: 322] (4321)
  • [2007-06-03 10:37]

nice colors good focus interesting expression on the bird. good work in difficult conditions

  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2007-06-03 10:41]
  • [+]

Hello James,
OK, it's neither the best POV nor the best lighting but how marvellous to be able to take a shot of this rarity, Abbot's Booby. Despite the fairly heavy cropping it is sharp and one can see the features that enable an ID of the species.
This must be a first on TN!
Well done and TFS!
Best wishes, Ivan

What interesting places you have been to, James! I can only imagine how this Island in the eastern Indian Ocean might look like as the summit of a submerged mountain.
This bird is a rarity, certainly. Hope it does not turn extinct for a measely amount of phosphate. We human beings are the greatest enemies of our own planet.
The picture is taken against a plain white sky, which you have already explained as the existing weather condition. All the same, one gathers a fairly good impression of this bird from this capture.
Thanks and regards.

  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2007-06-03 14:54]

Hi James. a bird i have never seen so thanks for showing it. as you say how did you miss it. great shot with good colour and detail. A good POV. showing his feet. well done TFS. good notes to,

Hi James,
You did so well to capture this image in such difficult conditions. Having to crop the image down so much did not take away from the quality too much either. Just seeing the bird in the first instance was enough especially against the white sky. Being able to see the webbed feet is also a bonus. Well done I say.

  • Great 
  • PaulH Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1137 W: 26 N: 3879] (13882)
  • [2007-06-04 5:26]

Hi James,

a pleasure to see such a rarity here on TN, WELL SPOTTED! Lets hope it's given a break so the population can recover.



  • Great 
  • SelenE Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2249 W: 65 N: 4205] (13972)
  • [2007-06-04 17:13]

Hi James,
A precious capture of this endangered booby. You are so lucky to see it. Thanks for the contribution to TN.

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2007-06-04 22:28]

Hello James

So you visit Christmas Island at Easter,does one visit Easter Island at Christmas? lol.Excellent capture of this rare bird on TN.The details are excellent,with the puffed plumage and whites showing very well.Well cropped with an interesting vertical composition.The feet are unique,they look like duck feet with claws.TFS


  • Great 
  • delic Gold Star Critiquer [C: 440 W: 6 N: 310] (898)
  • [2007-06-07 18:09]

Hello James,
I'm suprised you could produce such a fine image given the conditions. Remarkable post-processing job. The bird itself looks quite exotic, sorry to read that it's endangered. Best,

Very nice composition. Well exposed to get so much detail on a white bird against that light sky. I love the webbed feet clutching the branch, they look so out of place on a limb.

TFS, Mish

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