On 26 October 2019 around noontime, Tubbataha marine park rangers spotted two Masked Boobies (Sula dactylatra), instead of the usual solo individual, while conducting their quarterly seabird monitoring in Bird Islet. The masked boobies were hanging around the ‘plaza’ – the unvegetated area in the middle of Bird Islet in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. According to the rangers, it was the exact same spot the lone individual used to occupy in his previous visits to the Islet.
The species had been previously declared as locally extirpated in the Philippines since its disappearance from Bird Islet in 1996. Then, on 11 May 2016, a lone, male Masked Booby reappeared in TRNP. He kept reappearing alone every year until now.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell the male from the female in Masked Boobies, according to Arne Jensen, Tubbataha’s avifauna consultant. Even if the two turn out to be a breeding pair, it is no guarantee that they will breed successfully this year. Still, two are better than one, in this case, and management can only hope that their appearance is a sign of better things yet to come.
(Photos by Segundo Conales)