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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus

The largest of the three species of tropicbird, this elegant sea bird spends most of its life flying over the open ocean, often hundreds of miles from land. From a distance the red-billed tropicbird resembles a dove, but for two highly distinctive tail streamers that flutter behind it as it flies. It feeds by plunge-diving, hovering to locate its prey before diving with half-folded wings into the sea. Despite being very buoyant, it seldom swims. Like other tropicbirds, it nests on remote coasts and oceanic islands and is rarely seen outside tropical waters.

Red-billed Tropicbirdzoom image
  • Order Pelecaniformes
  • Length Up to 19 in (50 cm) excluding tail
  • Weight 1–1 lb (600–800 g)
  • Habitat Coasts, islands (breeding); open ocean
  • Distribution Eastern Pacific, Caribbean, tropical Atlantic, northeast Indian Ocean
Red-billed Tropicbird habitat mapzoom image