Red-tailed Tropicbird

Phaethon rubricauda

This is one of three similarly looking large white seabirds that occur within Australia and its territories. It can be generally identified by its long red tail streamers, although these are not present, or are greatly reduced, in young birds. The adult can be distinguished from the White-tailed Tropicbird P. lepturus (see p. ???) by its bright white plumage, red tail streamers and red bill, while the vagrant Red-billed Tropicbird P. aethereus has black streaks on the back, large black panels in the primary flight feathers, and white tail streamers. Younger birds have black and white plumage, a dark grey to black (juveniles) or orange-yellow (immature) bill. The species is found throughout tropical and subtropical areas of the Indian and West Pacific Oceans, with the largest breeding colony located on Lord Howe Island. Pairs nest on coastal cliffs, and may renew pair bonds each season. A single egg is laid in a shallow sandy scrape or rocky depression and both both sexes share incubation duties. Food, mostly small squid and surface-dwelling fish (including flying fish), is caught by diving into the ocean from a height of up to 50 m.