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White-tailed Tropicbird - Paille-en-queue
Phaethon lepturus
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There are three species of paille-en-queue. In addition to the Phaeton lepturus of the Indian ocean there is the

Phaeton aetherie
mainly seen in the Atlantic Ocena, with a white tail and red bec

Phaeton rubricauda (Red-tailed Tropicbird)

All three tropicbirds are closely related within the single genus Phaethon; there is a fossil from England aged at 50 million years ago that corresponds to a fourth (now extinct) species (Orta 1992).

  S/M # 3633 - sAou# 01120


Description
  • Length: 38-40 cm (15-16 in), 71-81 cm (28-32 in) including tail streamers
  • Wingspan: 89-94 cm (35-38 in)
  • Sexes similar

  • Pelagic bird only coming ashore to breed

  • Tern-sized

  • White head and body

  • Outer primaries black

  • Dark eye patch

  • average life span: 16 years.
Adult
  • Long white tail streamers

  • Yellow to orange bill

  • Black diagonal bar on upperside of inner wing
Immature
  • Lacks tail streamers

  • Yellow bill

  • Finely barred back

 

S/M # = Numbers from the Sibley/Monroe World List of Birds

Feeding Habits
Typically solitary feeders though sometimes seen in pairs. With folded wings, white-tails hit the water and completely submerge to seize and swallow prey before flight. Prey consists of fish and squid.

Breeding
Courting birds fly in parallel, with streamers from bird above turned downward toward mate. Fly together in shallow glides. Begin nesting at four years of age.

Nest year round with peak activity from March through October. Primarily a cliff or cavity nester. On Midway, birds nest in cavities of tree limbs, root bases of ironwood trees (Casuarina equisetfolia) and/or other secluded spots. A single egg is laid and incubated (40-42 days) by both adults. Lacks brood patch. Average incubation shift lengths range from about 4-8 days. Chicks are tightly brooded for the few days after hatching. Unlike other Pelicaniformes, adults regurgitate food by putting their bills down the gaping chick's throat. Average chick fledge times vary between 10-12 weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links
North American Waterbird Conservation Plan

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