Red-billed Tropicbird

The Red-bellied Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda) is a striking seabird known for its long, streaming tail feathers and bright red bill. Adults measure between 16 and 19 inches in length, with a wingspan of approximately 36 inches. They weigh between 7 and 10 ounces, making them one of the smaller members of the tropicbird family.

Distinguishing field marks of the Red-bellied Tropicbird include its mostly white plumage, with a red bill, a red patch on the lower belly, and elongated central tail feathers that trail up to 30 inches behind the bird in flight. The wings are also long and pointed, allowing the bird to soar and glide over the ocean’s surface.

Red-bellied Tropicbirds are found throughout the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They breed on small, uninhabited islands, with large colonies present in the Seychelles, Christmas Island, and the Hawaiian Islands. They are generally non-migratory, although some individuals may wander outside their breeding range in search of food.

During breeding season, Red-bellied Tropicbirds perform elaborate courtship displays, which include aerial acrobatics and the presentation of nesting materials. Females lay a single egg in a simple scrape on the ground or in a crevice in a rocky outcrop. Both parents take turns incubating the egg and caring for the chick once it hatches.

Despite their beauty, Red-bellied Tropicbirds face threats from habitat loss and introduced predators on their breeding islands, such as rats and feral cats. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists the species as of “Least Concern” due to its widespread distribution and large population size. However, ongoing conservation efforts are necessary to protect this stunning seabird for future generations to enjoy.

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