Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus)

Red-billed Tropicbird

[order] PHAETHONTIFORMES | [family] Phaethontidae | [latin] Phaethon aethereus | [UK] Red-billed Tropicbird | [FR] Phaeton a bec rouge | [DE] Rotschnabel-Tropikvogel | [ES] | [NL] Roodsnavelkeerkringvogel


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Phaethon aethereus TrO e PO, Caribbean, c AO, nw IO
Phaethon aethereus aethereus s Atlantic
Phaethon aethereus indicus Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Persian Gulf
Phaethon aethereus mesonauta e Pacific, Caribbean, e Atlantic

Physical charateristics

Slender, white, gull-like seabird with long white tail streamers. White back, finely barred black. Black eye stripe curves upward behind eye, almost meets at nape. Black primaries, red bill. Direct, rapid flight, pigeonlike, stiff, shallow wingbeats. The largest tropicbird.

Listen to the sound of Red-billed Tropicbird

[audio: Tropicbird.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 95 cm wingspan max.: 105 cm
size min.: 48 cm size max.: 50 cm
incubation min.: 42 days incubation max.: 44 days
fledging min.: 80 days fledging max.: 44 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


Tropical Ocean : East PO, Caribbean, Central AO, Northwest IO


This Tropicbird inhabits warm tropical and subtropical waters and their habitat is considered ?transitional? between tropical species to the south and subarctic species to the north. Some seabirds are limited to certain waters because of the water temperature, but the Red-billed Tropicbird lives in several different water masses that have similar properties and are connected. The dispersal of prey resources and the energy required to forage determines whether they can inhabit certain waters.


Monogamous semi-colonial nester. Scrape nest built by both male and female in a cave or burrow, sometimes on ground, always close to shore. Female lays one blotched or spotted red brown or white buff egg. Both sexes incubate for approximately 44 days and tend young until fledging. Young may stay in nest for up to 12 weeks. They generally breed at an annual interval and begin breeding at five years of age. They can lay up to three eggs, but usually only one grows to maturity.

Feeding habits

Flies high above water with direct, fast, and shallow wingbeats. Dives into water to catch fish and squid


Although this species may have a restricted range, it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be small, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Found in warm open ocean waters, often far from shore. Breeds on remote coastal islands or occasionally coastal mainland of Pacific Mexico and Caribbean. Occasional visitor off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Florida and California. Rare to Gulf Coast, one record for Arizona.
Red-billed Tropicbird status Least Concern


No regular migration; some adults can be seen in vicinity of colonies all year round. Extensive dispersal, especially of juveniles, often over waters fairly near breeding grounds, e.g. birds from Cape Verde Is move to areas of upwelling off W Africa; but many disperse much further out to sea, and adults from Galapagos known to wander some 1500 km.

Distribution map

Red-billed Tropicbird distribution range map

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