On 5 September 2018, the first Red-footed Booby since 1975 appeared on Southeast Farallon Island. On 7 November 2018, another Red-footed Booby appeared. Though they remain rare, the number of red-footed boobies sighted in California is on the rise. With warming oceans and changes in their primary food resources, you might start seeing more of these tropical birds along the central California coast in the coming years.
For the last two years, Point Blue has been collaborating with researchers from the University of Copenhagen to study the departure direction of vagrant songbirds which find their way to the Farallones. The goal of the project is to determine if these seemingly lost birds are doomed to perish by migrating the wrong way or if they are able to reorient themselves and continue their journey to the wintering grounds. To tackle these questions, we captured birds in mist nets and, after obtaining morphological information and feather and blood samples, attached small radio transmitters to their backs. Using an array of antennas set up at the lighthouse with automated and handheld receivers, we were able to track their movements as they departed the island. if they are able to orient back to the mainland and successfully overwinter, then they will likely survive to breed in the future and possibly pass on the genes that control their mirror-image migration on to the next generation. Correction would indicate that the Farallon Islands may serve as an important stopover site for these migrating birds to rest and feed, allowing a greater chance at survival.
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