The blue-footed booby -- a species of seabird with characteristically robin's-egg-blue flipper feet -- is in decline in the Galápagos Islands, and researchers aren't sure what to do. According to a new study published in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology, the booby population has seen a dramatic decline since 1997, dropping by more than 50 percent in fewer than 20 years.
"Until 1997, there were literally thousands of boobies at these breeding sites, and hundreds of nests full of hatching chicks," said the study's author, Dave Anderson, as reported by LiveScience. "Then, suddenly, the boobies just weren't there."
Anderson and his colleagues found that although the birds had attempted to breed, most pairs did not produce offspring. Researchers suspect that the reproductive failure results from a lack of sardines, on which the boobies subsist -- and of which there have been fewer and fewer in the Galápagos. According to previous research, blue-footed boobies must consume a baseline amount of sardines to live, but they must eat even more to reproduce.