White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus


The White-tailed Tropicbird is the smallest of the three species of tropicbird. It resembles the other species in its mostly-white plumage, vaguely tern-like shape, and long, tapered tail. White-tailed is unique in having a yellow bill, large black patches on the greater wing coverts and primaries, and a largely white tail (this last feature is shared by Red-billed Tropicbird, Phaethon aethereus). White-tailed occurs throughout the tropical oceans, in the Neotropics particularly in the Caribbean and off northeastern Brazil. It breeds on small, remote islands on cliffs and occasionally in trees. While feeding is largely offshore, this species is more apt to forage near the coast than other tropicbirds. It takes small fish, squid, and crustaceans, generally by plunge-diving. Flying-fish, however, may be taken in mid-air during leaps. Outside of the breeding season, individuals may disperse some distance, sometimes as far as 1000 km.

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© H. Douglas Pratt

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-breeding

Recommended Citation

White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: