Masked Booby
LaJolla Cove, LaJolla, San Diego County
10 January 2002
Joseph Morlan

Photos © 2002 by Dave Furseth and Bill Bouton
Robbie Fischer and I arrived at LaJolla Cove about 7:45 am by which time nobody had seen the Masked Booby which had been present in the area since at least 31 December 2001 when a report to the San Diego Rare Bird Alert was confirmed by Stan Walens.

A photographer was standing on top of the "clam" which is the bird's favorite roosting area and which is posted off limits. Robbie checked the path to the north while I checked south. Eventually Brennan Mulroony shouted to me. They had the bird on a sea terrace to the south directly across from the Brockton Villa Restaurant.

I called Robbie on the radio and she alerted Bill Bouton and Stan Walens. We all got great views of the bird standing, preening and eventually flying off the rocks out into the bay to the north where I watched it swimming in the water through a scope. Bill Bouton took video of the bird while we watched it. Still images from the video are reproduced below.

The following notes were made while watching the bird:

A large booby or gannet like bird, white with black wings and tail.

The bill was long and pointed, dull yellow toward the tip, but much darker at the base. However the yellow of the tip extended as a narrow stripe along the tomium at the base of the bill to the gape. A narrow black border was visible where the bill met the forehead. The culmen curved downward slightly at the tip and upward in the middle forming a slight saddle

The eye was yellow with a black pupil. There was faint brown smudging on the forehead and cheeks.

The primaries, secondaries and tertials were black. The greater coverts and a narrow row of median coverts were also black contrasting with a pale area on the distal lesser coverts. Proximal lesser coverts were heavy speckled with black, but the marginal coverts appeared white.

The uderwing coverts were white with dusky marking in the center. The alula was dark.

The tail was long and pointed and black, but white at the base when seen from above. The back was white, but the lower back and rump were heavily spotted with blackish.

All flight feathers appeared heavily worn and abraded.

The feet and legs were gray with a slight pinkish tinge visible in the webs of the toes. The feet were fully webbed with three webs visible on each foot. Two black caruncles were visible on the rear of the right leg and there was a hole in the right web of the right foot.

As we watched the bird regurgitated a clear liquid. When to flew it appeared to fly well. The wings were long and pointed and it glided with wings bowed slightly down. A Western Gull harassed it while it flew.

The is the fourth Masked Booby I have seen in California. Prior sightings were from the Salinas River mouth, Monterey County; Point Mugu Naval Air Station, Ventura County; and Ano Nuevo Island, San Mateo County.