White-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus)

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White-tailed tropicbird , Tropicbirds , Phaethon lepturus

The white-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus)

The White-tailed Tropicbirds (Phaethon lepturus) are the smallest of the three Tropicbirds we have discussed earlier. This Tropicbird is locally known as “Longtail” as well, because of its lengthy tail.

The plumage of an adult bird is entirely white and on the top of its wings, some black outer primaries and a diagonal black stripe can be seen. However, the amount of such visible black faded areas are varies. Although, this species has a White tail with lengthy streamers in the center and this Whiteness is absolutely all around. Further, it has a black eyeline from the lores to the ear coverts in its face. Further, the bill is colored with vivid orange-yellow. It also has dark brown eyes and dark grey legs and feet. Therefore, the two genders of these tropicbirds are comparable to each. Additionally, The young tropic birds have limited or lack of tail streamers and has bristly black barring on its upper parts or upper bodies. The youngsters eyes are yellower than the adult birds. Moreover, these birds become sexually mature at the age of four.


There are six subspecies:

P. l. lepturusIndian Ocean
P. l. fulvusChristmas Island
P. l. dorotheaetropical Pacific
P. l. catesbyiBermuda and Caribbean
P. l. ascensionisAscension Island
P. l. europaeEuropa Island, s. Mozambique Channel

Scientific classification

Binomial name:Phaethon lepturus

Statistical details about White-tailed tropicbird:

About how many birds are there at present?

There are less than (about) 400,000 individuals in the world.

How long can they live?

Its life span is around 8 years and 4 months.

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

The average weight of a white-tailed tropicbird is 330 g.

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

The average length of a white-tailed tropicbird is approximately 71–80 cm.

What is its average wingspan size?

The wingspan size is around 89 to 96 cm.

What is its average upper elevation limit?

No data.

What is its average lower elevation limit?

No data.

Habits and lifestyle

The white-tailed tropicbirds’ breeding areas are the tropical islands and atolls, or isles with either high or low elevations (heights). They prefer a variety of nesting spots, such as forks in trees, cliff ledges, and the ground under stunted trees or brush. They mate as monogamous pairs and can nest alone or in small groups. After the nesting area is settled, the female tropicbird lays a single egg that is highly variable in colors and marks. The egg is incubated by both adults by taking turns. Furthermore, during the mating season, this species does eye-catching flight performances. Both mates fly aligned or parallel and present stunt flying and accompanied appearances, which include aerobatics and glides that are clattering. Moreover, the adult birds and youngsters represent dispersions of around 1000 km.

What do they feed off?

The main food sources for the white-tailed tropicbird are flying fish, squid, and crabs. It catches its prey by diving from a height of up to 20 meters, such as gannets. Flying fish are nevertheless captured while in flight. These tropicbirds are usually hunted or seek food in pairs. When a tropicbird is swallowing a prey item, it frequently pinpoints and triggers it by lingering above the water level before taking off.

Moreover, the nests are excellently defended by the white-tailed tropical birds. Therefore, the Intruders or closer by tropicbirds are bitted by the owner, and their pointed beaks frequently injure the intruder’s head and neck.

Furthermore, the female lays a single, highly variable-marked egg after the nesting place is settled. Accordingly, about 40 to 42 days are spent for incubating, which is alternatively shared by both parents. The chick or hatchling is wholly pale at birth. It is incessantly brooding over the first few days, and afterwards it rests at its nest and awaits for the adults to bring food. Although, the hatchlings or chicks are fed by semi-absorbent food and the Parent birds spit-up or regurgitate the food into the youngster’s throat.

Thereafter, the youngsters are ready to fly after 70 to 85 days after their hatching, and they proceed and learn to fly extremely quickly. Nevertheless, It accomplishes a post-fledging dispersion and gains independence right away. Since they are monogamous, white-tailed tropical birds form long-lasting couples. Due to a lack of nesting locations, they may reuse the same nests.

What are their birthing rituals?

The breeding season may last throughout the entire year. White-tailed Tropicbirds build their nests in cracks, beneath rocky ledges, or on the ground in protected scrapes or bushes, though they also use tree forks as mentioned earlier. During their flying displays, the nesting areas is frequently chosen for performing such. Moreover, there is procreation or coupling conducted without the use of rituals at the nesting areas.

How do you identify them?

An average adult white-tailed tropicbird is a slender, primarily white bird that is 71–80 cm in length (with its extremely long center tail feathers, which double its overall length) and its wingspan is 89–96 cm. Also, this bird has an orange-yellow to orange-red bill, a black band on the inner wing, and a black eye mask. The red-billed tropicbird can be distinguished by this species by its bill color, pure white back, and black wing bar.

On tropical islands, the white-tailed tropicbird breeds by laying one egg on the surface of the soil or a rock ledge. When not mating, it frequently travels a great distance across the oceans. This species is also a poor swimmer and, therefore, it gets fed by fish and squid collected by surface diving. Furthermore, these birds make a high-pitched keee-kee-krrt-krrt-krrt noise.

Although, the genders are comparable as the males typically have longer tails than the females. Juveniles lack tail streamers and have a green-yellow beak and a finely banded back. The white-tailed tropicbird does not have an annual breeding cycle; rather, the frequency of breeding influenced by the weather and the accessibility of better breeding grounds. The bird may breed again either within 10 months or 5 months after the most recent successful breeding.

Do they have any natural predators?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized and classified the White-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus) as being a “Decreasing” species.

The majority of tropicbirds are tropicbirds, Hence some inhabitants (populations), such as the Christmas tropicbird, have decreased as a result of habitat degradation. Additionally, Introduced rats are the primary predators of these birds as they steal the White tropicbird eggs and putting the birds to death. And certain reasons for such decrease also significantly influenced by human disruptions.

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



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