Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda)

Common Name: Red-tailed Tropicbird

Scientific Name: Phaethon rubricauda
SizeDietRange in HawaiiStatus in Hawaii
20 in. - 24 in.Flying fish, ommastrephid squid, jacks, dolphinfish, truncated sunfish, and balloonfishAll IslandsLeast Concern

The Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda) is a striking and distinctive seabird found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. They are known for their elaborate courtship displays, which involve aerial displays of diving and soaring. They are also known for their distinctive, piercing calls, which can be heard over long distances.

Red-tailed Tropicbird

Appearance

Red-tailed tropicbird in flight
Red-tailed tropicbird in flight

The Red-tailed Tropicbird is a large seabird with a long, slender body and a long tail. It has a wingspan of approximately 80-90 cm (31-35 inches) and measures approximately 50-60 cm (20-24 inches) in length.

The male Red-tailed Tropicbird has a pure white plumage, with a bright red bill and a long, white tail that has a distinctive, pointed shape. The female is predominantly white, with some grey on the upperparts and wings.

Diet

Red-tailed Tropicbirds are carnivorous birds that feed primarily on small fish and invertebrates. They forage for food at sea, diving into the water to catch their prey. They have a varied diet that may include fish, squid, and other marine animals.

They are often forage alone or in small groups, and may travel long distances in search of food. They are known to follow schools of fish, feeding on the small fish that are stirred up by larger predatory fish.

Behavior

Red-tailed tropicbirds are known for their elaborate courtship displays, which involve aerial displays of diving and soaring. Males perform these displays in order to attract females and establish their territory. Red-tailed tropicbirds are also known for their distinctive, piercing calls, which can be heard over long distances.

Nesting

Red-tailed tropicbird nesting
Red-tailed tropicbird nesting

Red-tailed tropicbirds nest in shallow burrows or cavities in the ground, and both males and females take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the young. They typically lay a single egg, which is incubated for about 45 days.

The chick is born altricial, meaning that it is born helpless and requires extensive care from its parents. Both parents feed the chick by regurgitation until it is ready to fledge, which usually occurs when the chick is about 12-14 weeks old.

Habitat

Red-tailed tropicbirds are found in a variety of marine habitats, including coral reefs, lagoons, and open ocean. They are adapted to a marine lifestyle and rely on the oceans for their food. They are not adapted to feeding on land-based food sources and do not typically feed on plants or seeds.

Range

Conservation Status

The Red-tailed Tropicbird is not considered to be a threatened or endangered species, and they are found in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. It is classified as a species of “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Interesting Facts

1. They are strong fliers

Red-billed tropicbirds are strong fliers and are able to soar and glide over long distances. They are adapted to a marine lifestyle and are able to dive into the water to catch their prey.

You may also like:  Red-footed Booby (Sula sula)

2. They are social birds

Red-billed tropicbirds are social birds and may form large colonies during the breeding season. They nest in shallow burrows or cavities in the ground and both males and females take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the young.

3.  Adapted to a marine lifestyle

Red-billed tropicbirds are adapted to a marine lifestyle and are highly dependent on the oceans for their food. They are not adapted to feeding on land-based food sources and do not typically feed on plants or seeds.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What do red-tailed tropicbirds eat?

Red-tailed tropicbirds primarily feed on small fish, squid, and crustaceans. They catch their prey by diving into the water from great heights, often plunging into the ocean from as high as 100 meters.

How do red-tailed tropicbirds breed?

Red-tailed tropicbirds breed on isolated, offshore islands and cliffs, where they build nests on the ground in crevices or burrows. They are monogamous and lay a single egg, which is incubated by both parents. The chicks fledge (leave the nest) after about 12 weeks.

Are red-tailed tropicbirds endangered?

Red-tailed tropicbirds are not considered endangered, but their populations are thought to be declining in some areas due to habitat loss and human disturbance. They are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the United States.