Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus)

The Red-billed Tropicbird, Phaethon aethereus, also known as the Boatswain Bird is a tropicbird, one of three closely related seabirds of tropical oceans.

The Indian Ocean race of the Red-billed Tropicbird, P. a. indicus, was at one time considered a full species, the Lesser Red-billed Tropicbird.

The Red-billed Tropicbird is set to be featured on the currency of Bermuda (where it is also known as the “Longtail”).   

This bird was selected over Bermuda’s national bird, the endemic Bermuda Petrel, and the native White-tailed Tropicbird. The story was carried globally by the Associated Press.

According to Leonard Astwood, these birds are known to the island in great numbers. 

They first appear in April (and some have said as early as  February) each year. 

They are prolific around the shores of the islands, nesting in cliffs.   Noted conservationist on the Dr. David Wingate.

Red-billed Tropic Bird

Distribution / Range

It occurs in the tropical Alantic, eastern Pacific and Indian Oceans. It disperses widely when not breeding, and sometimes wanders far, including an amazing record from Great Britain. One has recently been found in eastern Nova Scotia, Canada. They feed on fish and squid, but are poor swimmers

Red-billed Tropicbird

Red-billed Tropicbird chick

Nesting / Breeding

The Red-billed Tropicbird breeds on tropical islands laying a single egg directly onto the ground or a cliff ledge .


The adult is a slender mainly white bird, 48cm long excluding the very long central tail feathers, which double the total length. The wingspan is about 1 metre, and the long wings have black markings on the flight feathers. There is black through the eye. The bill is red.

Males and females look alike, although males average longer tailed, but juveniles lack the tail streamers, are greyer-backed, and have a yellow bill.

P. a. indicus has a reduced black eyestripe, and a more orange-tinted bill.

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