A masked booby has been discovered from Hikkaduwa and the fisherman who found the booby has handed over it to the Hikkaduwa Wildlife Office last Wednesday. It is being kept in a cage and fed on fish at the moment by Wildlife Officials. The Sri Lankan discovery has special significance as this is a fairly sedentary bird, rarely seen far from breeding colonies.
“We think the bird may have followed one of the boats and got disoriented in the process. But more likely, it may have lost its way due to the recent storm,” says Wildlife Ranger and Officer-in-Charge, Marine Wildlife Management Unit, Mirissa, ATR Ravindra Kumara.
“This is an extremely rare discovery as these are sea birds and rarely venture this far out to land. They are usually seen over deep sea,” says FOGSL office staff member Indika Pradeepa Kaggoda Arachchi. “Judging by the colors in the photographs it seems to be a juvenile, consequently may have wondered on to the boat and subsequently lost its way,” says Indika, upon perusing the photographs forwarded by The Nation News Desk. Indika explained that birds such as boobies, terns, gulfs, frigate birds and shearwater birds often follow fishing boats as it allows them to prey on fish that escape fishing nets or are thrown overboard, without much effort.
The masked booby (Sula dactylatra), also called the masked gannet or the blue-faced booby, has rarely been previously sighted in Sri Lanka. Measuring 74 to 91cm in length, with a 137 to 165cm wingspan and weighing 1.2 to 2.35kg a normal masked booby is the largest of boobies. Pointed black wings, pointed black tail, and dark grey facemask are defining characteristics of an adult masked booby. It breeds in tropical oceans and usually nests in rock outcrops. It is also known to follow fishing boats.
Photo courtesy: ATR Ravindra Kumara