Red-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda)

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Red-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda)

The Red-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda)

The red-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda) is a seabird that mainly resides in the Indian and Pacific Oceans’ tropical regions. Therefore, this species is discoverable amongst the countries of Sri Lanka, Australia, Bangladesh, British Indian Ocean Territory, Canada, Chile, China, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Japan, Madagascar, Mayotte, Mexico, the Federated States of Micronesia, Mozambique, Norfolk Island, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, South Africa, Taiwan, and China.

The red-tailed tropicbird is a large windborne seabird with a slender body, a short neck, long and narrow wings, and two very-noticeable streamer lines of lengthy central tail feathers. Its beak and tail streamers are both bright red, and its feathers appear to be mostly white. Tropical birds with red tails mostly inhabit habitats, residing and roaming in open water. The tropical and subtropical seabirds are all included in their large-scale diversity.


The binomial name of this species, “Phaethon rubricauda,” was first used in 1783 by the Dutch naturalist Pieter Boddaert in his inventory of the Planches Enluminées. The Latin words ruber, meaning “red,” and cauda, meaning “tail,” used for the species’ identification, which procured from the Ancient Greek phaethon, “sun.”

Moreover, John Latham, an English ornithologist, mentioned the name “Red-Tailed tropicbird” in his General Synopsis of Birds, which was published in 1785. He stated that this species is widely spread in Mauritius and the South Pacific. Another thing he recorded regarding a black-billed tropicbird was that it was taken from Palmerston Island and ended up in Banks’ collection.

Nevertheless, Latham did not give them binomial names. A German naturalist, Johann Friedrich Gmelin, was in charge of describing the species, and it appeared in the 13th edition of Systema Naturae in 1788 under the names of Phaeton phoenicuros and P. melanorhynchos, respectively. Later, Latham gave this black-billed specimen the name “Phaethon novae-hollandiae” and described it as the New Holland tropicbird.

Scientific classification

Binomial name:Phaethon rubricauda

Statistical details about Red-tailed tropicbird:

About how many birds are there at present?

There are about 70,000 individuals existing in the world.

How long can they live?

Its life span is around 11 years and 07 months.

What is the average weight of a Red-tailed tropicbird?

The average weight of a Red-tailed tropicbird is 590g.

What is the average length of a Red-tailed tropicbird?

The average length of a Red-tailed tropicbird is approximately 86.36 cm.

What is its average wingspan size?

The wingspan size is around 111 to 119cm.

What is its average upper elevation limit?

250 m its upper elevation limit.

What is its average lower elevation limit?

No data.

Habits and lifestyle

The pair-bond between male and female birds is monogamous and habitually undergoes different seasons. In addition, these birds perform floating or airborne performances in groups near to their nesting areas that influence mate selection. Moreover, the red-tailed tropicbirds is frequently observable for aging alone or in pairs at the seaside. Also, this species slowly flies, with consistent wing beats that are preferred with gliding or sea-sliding to define the flight. Additionally, it uses plunge-diving to catch prey. Therefore, the red-tailed tropicbirds can be found all throughout the tropical and subtropical oceans, based on their remarkable mobility and vigour.

The red-tailed tropical bird mostly feeds off fish, especially flying fish, squid, and crabs. Furthermore, it dives to the bottom to capture its prey from a height of roughly 6 to 50 meters, and it frequently catches flying fish. The Red-tailed Tropicbird are having their meals offshore, usually by themselves and infrequently in flocks. The majority of its time are spending with soaring over water while searching for food.

The Red-tailed Tropicbird engages in courting flying performances. The most amazing tropicbird gliding occasions take place during these times. The two friends separate from the group and fly one above the other. They perform aerobatics and various figures while hovering, gliding, and rising while being propelled by the wind. They lower and shake their crimson streamers in a side-to-side motion. The pair then switch roles and talk about airborne circles. These flights typically involve flying in circles, backwards, and upwards.

Both birds discover suitable nesting locations while flying, and copulation takes place at the chosen location. In its range, the Red-tailed Tropicbird lives permanently. Although it may engage in some dispersal, the majority of adult birds are always visible close to the colonies.

The Red-tailed Tropicbird possesses acrobatic flight and can execute amazing aerobatics. The final clade of the three Tropicbird species is: it is the heaviest and has shorter wings than the other two. The Red-tailed Tropicbird exhibits strong, direct flight with powerful wing beats outside of flight displays, occasionally spreading with soaring and gliding.

What do they feed off?

It engages in extensive offshore foraging, diving into the water to hunt flying fish, squid, and other prey.

What are their birthing rituals?

Red-tailed tropicbirds breed in the Indian and Pacific Oceans’ tropical and subtropical regions, although their at-sea range also includes warm temperate seas. Therefore, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, French Polynesia, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, New Caledonia, New Zealand, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Pitcairn, Réunion, Seychelles, the United States, Hawaiian Island, the United States Minor Outlying Islands, and Wallis and Futuna are just a few of the countries and territories where they were born and grew up.

Therefore, when the appropriate nesting locations are available, red-tailed tropicbirds build solitary nests or loose breeding colonies. Their extended breeding season lasts from December to August. Accordingly, the majority of nests have young from mid-January to May, with December and January often being the peak months for laying eggs. Furthermore, nestlings are also done in August. Consequently, breeding can happen or occur at various times throughout the whole year.

Moreover, the nest scrape of this species is created by digging out the minor depression in the ground with the foot and adding some stones or leaves. Although this process has been utilized for several years, and these nests are safe and protected as territory. These birds only lay one egg at a time, in spite of laying many, in order to keep away from the possibility of replacement of the following eggs that have been laid. Furthermore, reproduction and nestling provisioning are shared by both sexes. The parent inserts its bill or beak into the chick’s (fledgling’s) stomach to regurgitate the parent’s food into the nestling’s stomach. When the chicks are bringing into being, they become semi-altricial, downy, and independent of their parents when they fly.

How do you identify them?

It is a little seabird with a crimson beak that is primarily white in color. When seeing them from a distance, it is difficult to see the long red tail streamers. This bird is rarely observable inland. It usually wings its way far above the water when at sea-level. Couples and groups engage in noisy squawking and backward-wheeling courtship displays. greater in size and body weight than the White-tailed Tropicbird.

Do they have any natural predators?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized and classified the Red-tailed tropicbird as being a “least concern” species. Hence, rats have historically resulted in large losses in Red-tailed Tropicbird colonies, and they continue to be vulnerable to new introductions across their entire range. It has been demonstrated that it has benefited from current elimination efforts, and therefore, they do exist on quite a few islands that are currently predator-free.

Population Trend-Decreasing
Population status-Least concern (LC)-09 December 2019



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