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71. Abbott’s Booby

Papasula abbotti


The Abbott’s Booby has a unique breeding biology, behaviour and bone structure that sets it apart from the six other booby species.

One of these physiological differences is its slightly hooked bill, which as a serrated cutting edge. Their breeding cycle is drastically longer than other booby species, lasting 15-18 months, and taking juveniles 8 years to become sexually mature. Being distinct from the other six booby species, the Abbott’s booby is in its own monotypic genus, Papasula. Once widespread throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, this endangered species is now restricted to a breeding colony on Christmas Island, an Australian territory located in the eastern Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, this unique booby is threatened by a large number of factors, not least of which is the yellow crazy ant. This invasive ant species causes havoc with the island’s ecology, killing red crabs that play a key role in soil fertilization and turnover. Much of the booby’s forest habitat has been cleared for the mining of phosphate. The species is also threatened by wind turbulence, marine pollution, overfishing, harvesting and invasive exotic plants.

  • Order: Suliformes
  • Family: Sulidae
  • Population: 9,000
  • Trend: stable
  • Size: 79 cm
  • Weight: 1.4-1.6kg

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.06 (?)
ED Score: 18.68 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


Their breeding and roosting sites are restricted to the western, central, southern and norther parts of Christmas Island, an Australian territory.

Habitat and Ecology

The Abbott’s Booby are pelagic, spending most of their time out on the open sea. They roost and breed in tall rainforest, between 20-40 m above sea level, on Christmas Island. They feed on squid and flying fish by ‘plunge-diving’ into the ocean. The breeding cycle takes 15-18 months, such that successful pairs will only nest once every two years. A single egg is laid per clutch, typically between May and July. Both parents take turns to incubate the egg during a 57-day period, which is significantly longer than for other members of the Sulidae family. Juveniles reach sexual maturity at eight years of age. The average lifespan for this species is assumed to be around 40 years.

Find out more

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Industrial development Habitat change Extreme weather Mining Roads/Rail Hunting Fishing Invasive species Industry

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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