World Wonders Cruise Diary – Days 46-47 – Birdies at Sea!

Mona Liza wanted a post about our unexpected four days cruising the Coral Sea, two on our way to Noumea, New Caledonia and two back to Australia.  They were her favorite sea days so far because the ocean was almost mirror-smooth with calm winds – perfect!  They were also the days when we saw a lot of things flying around.

This is how cruising should be!

Robin Petch, a Viking guest wildlife lecturer, conducts wildlife watches every day we are at sea.  He gives scheduled and spontaneous lectures about the sightings of any birds or mammals we see along the way, and he also documents them for wildlife study groups:

This juvenile Booby didn’t seem to mind the humans all around it.  Mr. Petch said it was unheard of to get this close to one
This bird whisperer seemed to have quite a conversation going, perhaps they were discussing boobies?
I don’t think he’s so cute in the close-up shots

One afternoon Mr Petch counted about 40 Red-footed Boobies riding the air currents around the front of the ship as they swooped down to catch flying fish.  With the ocean being so smooth, we went down to deck 2 for a front-row show – birdies vs. flying fish!

Once again, ML kicked herself for not having her super-zoom lens, but I think it would have been more difficult to get good pictures with it because of all the action.  We’d never seen flying fish before, and it was amazing to watch the birds doing strafing runs after them as the fish popped out of the water and glided along to get away from the ship:

Believe me, it’s not easy to get a good picture of a flying fish from a moving ship
She caught this one just as it exited the water
A feeding frenzy – the birds looked like fighter jets as they dove after the fish

Flying fish don’t actually fly – they come out of the water at high speed and use their large pectoral fins to help them glide up to several hundred feet at speeds up to 40mph:

The track behind the fish is created by its tail vibrating to help keep it above water longer
The birds were quite successful and had a high “kill rate”
Go fish, go!
Score one for the birdie!
Or sometimes a bust…

The Red-footed booby is a large seabird of the booby family, Sulidae.  Adults always have red feet, but the color of the plumage varies.  They’re powerful and agile fliers, but clumsy during takeoffs and landings.  Found widely in the tropics, they are uncommon in the mainland U.S.

Red-footed Booby
Oh look, they tell fish stories too!
Just like us – resting after another big fish dinner 🙂

That evening we found them roosting all around the top of the ship.  The crew wasn’t very happy about the mess they had to clean up the next morning!

By the end of the next day they were gone.  Maybe a new cruise ship came along to stir up another meal?

And another day has ended beautifully!

We have not seen a radiating sunset like this before, fabulous!




  1. I love all these photos! including the boobie whisperer doing her thing! and the line of red feet on the railing, and the smiling boobies at the congregational poles after a big fish dinner, and the calm seas . . . thank you for sharing. PS: the feathery diagonals of growth on their necks is an interesting phenomenon.

  2. Well, you knew we would enjoy this post…so thanks for the great photos and nature commentary! Love the photo of the Red-footed Boobies with their red feet lined up along the railing and the photos of the flying boobies chasing the flying fish. Very cool experience!

  3. What wonderful pictures! You got some great shots of the birds and the flying fish. I, too, loved the line up of red feet on the railing. And, of them telling fish stories. What amazing pictures. And beautiful calm seas look wonderful.

  4. I loved this post Steve! MonaLiza was right. I think her photos of the flying fish were great, even without the special lens. So neat that they rested on your ship with their big red feet all lined up together. Another Viking service for their passengers enjoyment eh?

  5. It’s great to see that you finally have calm seas. What a fun time with the Booby. Love seeing all those red feet on the top of the ship. The photos of the flying fish are amazing! Great job!

  6. ML should not kick her over the super-zoom lens … though I know it’s easier said than done as I do that often too. Great job with the flying fish … some of the best photos I’ve seen of them.

  7. I am behind in my posting, but I read all of the ones we missed while we were in Death Valley aloud to TBG while he drove us into Nevada 🙂 I couldn’t see the flying fish very well on my phone, but now that I’m on my laptop — yowie! Those are so cool!

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