Red-tailed Tropicbird

Phaethon rubricauda




Tropicbirds (Phaethontidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Gray with heavy red brown spotting.

Number of Eggs:


Incubation Days:

39 - 45

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

In sand.

Nest Material:

No nest materials.





Red-tailed Tropicbird: Medium-sized tropicbird with silky white plumage; white back and upper wing; black upperparts; small but conspicuous black eye stripe; black mask. Bill is coral red, black along nostrils. Legs and base of feet are gray, the rest of the feet are black. Tail has long, red central streamers. Sexes are similar. Juvenile has white forehead and forecrown, sharply demarcated from rest of crown and hind neck and densely spotted; lacks tail streamers, has black bill and black-barred upperparts.

Range and Habitat

Red-tailed Tropicbird: This species nests on the Hawaiian Islands and disperses widely in tropical and subtropical areas of the Indian and Pacific oceans; it occurs accidentally off southern California and along the California coast. It is more pelagic than other tropicbirds, and is usually seen far out at sea.

Breeding and Nesting

Red-tailed Tropicbird: One gray egg with heavy red brown spotting is laid on the ground in sand. Incubation ranges from 39 to 45 days and is carried out by both parents.

Foraging and Feeding

Red-tailed Tropicbird: They feed offshore, generally out of sight of land. Flying fish are the most common in their diet, followed by ommastrephid squid, then jacks; less common are dolphinfish, truncated sunfish, and balloonfish. They hover over the water after spotting prey. Then they plunge dive, disappearing underwater for a few seconds to catch it.


Red-tailed Tropicbird: Usually silent, except in breeding colonies. Calls include a guttural squawk and high, whistle-like screeches.

Similar Species

Red-tailed Tropicbird: Red-billed Tropicbird has white tail streamers, barred back, and black primaries.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The crown is the top part of the birds head.
The pelagic is a type of bird whose habitat is on the open ocean rather than in a coastal region or on inland bodies of water (lakes, rivers). An example of a pelagic bird is the blacklegged kittiwake.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X