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Phaethontiformes Order - Phaethontidae Family


Tropicbirds are very elegant seabirds, living in tropical and subtropical oceans. They are largely pelagic, and nest on small oceanic islands with cliffs. The nest is situated in rocky crevice or on the ground, in sheltered scrape.

Pair has only one egg. Chick hatches after 40 to 45 days of incubation, shared by both parents. It is tended and fed by adults, with regurgitated food directly into its throat. Young fledges about 12 to 13 weeks after hatching, and performs some post-breeding dispersal. However, adults are resident.

Red-billed Tropicbird, Red-tailed Tropicbird and White-tailed Tropicbird have white plumage overall, with some black marks on upperwing and black eye-line.

In the three species, the tail is fan-shaped, with long white streamers, except the Red-tailed Tropicbird which have red streamers. These long feathers play an important role in flight displays, moving side to side or floating in the wind. Tropicbirds perform wonderful displays, with aerobatics in parallel, backwards flights, hovering and circling.

Tropicbirds feed on fish, mainly flying fish caught in flight, squid and crustaceans. They fish by plunge-diving from heights of several metres.

At this moment, these three species are not threatened, but introduced cats and rats take numerous eggs and young birds.

Picture by Tom Grey
Tom Grey's Bird Pictures

Text by Nicole Bouglouan

Sources :

HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 1 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334105

Wikipedia (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)

The Birds of North America online


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