Red-tailed tropicbird

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Red-tailed tropicbird
Red-tailed Tropicbird3.jpg
Red-tailed tropicbird
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Phaethontiformes
Family: Phaethontidae
Genus: Phaethon
Species: P. rubricauda'
Binomial name
Phaethon rubricauda
Boddaert, 1783

The red-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda) is a seabird that nests across the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It nests in colonies on oceanic islands. The species is also known by its Maori name, amokura.


Dutch naturalist Pieter Boddaert described the red-tailed tropicbird in 1783.

Its closest relative is the white-tailed tropicbird, with the split between their ancestors taking place about four million years ago.[2]


The red-tailed tropicbird looks like a stout tern, and hence closely resembles the other two tropicbird species. It has generally white plumage, often with a pink tinge, a black crescent around the eye and a thin red tail feather. It has a bright red bill and black feet.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The red-tailed tropicbird nests on oceanic islands in large colonies from the Hawaiian Islands, where they are more common on the northwestern islands,[3] to Easter Island and across to Mauritius and the Reunion Island. In Madagascar they nest on the tiny island of Nosy Ve. In Australia, they nest on Queensland's coral islands (including Lady Elliot Island) and islands off Western Australia. They disperse widely after breeding, birds ringed in Hawaii have been recovered as far away as Japan and the Philippines. They range from the Red Sea to New Zealand and Chile.

Strong winds can blow them inland on occasions, which explains some sighting records away from the coast and their preferred habitats.


When breeding, they mainly choose coral atolls with low shrubs, nesting underneath them (or occasionally in limestone cavities). They feed offshore away from land, singly rather than in flocks. They are plunge-divers that feed on fish, mostly flying fish, and squid.

Vagrant red-billed tropicbirds have been implicated in egg loss of nests in Hawaii.[3]



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2013). "Phaethon rubricauda". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Kennedy, Martyn; Spencer, Hamish G (2004). "Phylogenies of the frigatebirds (Fregatidae) and tropicbirds (Phaethonidae), two divergent groups of the traditional order Pelecaniformes, inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 31 (1): 31–38. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2003.07.007. ISSN 1055-7903. 
  3. ^ a b Vanderwerf, Eric A.; Young, Lindsay C. (2007). "The Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda in Hawaii, with notes on interspecific behavior of tropicbirds" (PDF). Marine Ornithology. 35: 81–84. 

External links[edit]