Red-billed tropicbird

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Red-billed tropicbird
Red-billed tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus mesonauta) with chick.jpg
P. a. mesonauta, Little Tobago
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Phaethontidae
Genus: Phaethon
Species: P. aethereus
Binomial name
Phaethon aethereus
Linnaeus, 1758

The red-billed tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus), also known as the boatswain bird is a tropicbird, one of three closely related seabirds of tropical oceans.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The red-billed tropicbird occurs in the tropical Atlantic, eastern Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Indian Ocean race, P. a. indicus, was at one time considered a full species, the lesser red-billed tropicbird from Pakistan and western India. It breeds on tropical islands laying a single egg directly onto the ground or a cliff ledge. It disperses widely when not breeding, and sometimes wanders far, including three records from Great Britain.[2] In July of 2005, one was found in eastern New Brunswick, Canada,[3] and another sighting was confirmed on Lord Howe Island near Australia in November 2010. They feed on fish and squid, but are poor swimmers. Red billed tropicbirds have been sighted at Matinicus Rock, Maine.[4]


The adult is a slender, mainly white bird, 48 cm long, excluding the central tail feathers which double the total length, and a one metre wingspan. The long wings have black markings on the flight feathers. There is black through the eye. The bill is red. Sexes are similar, although males average longer tails. Juveniles lack the tail streamers, are greyer-backed, and have a yellow bill. P. a. indicus has a reduced black eye stripe, and a more orange-tinted bill.Its wind are made up of very large feather coat.

Depiction on banknote[edit]

The red-billed tropicbird was featured in error on the $50 Bermudian dollar and was replaced in 2012 by the white-tailed tropicbird.


Further reading[edit]

Snow, D.W. (1965). The breeding of the Red-billed Tropicbird in the Galapagos Islands. Condor 67(3): 210-214.

External links[edit]