Conservation Status: Least Concern
Scientific Name: Phaethon Aethereus
The beautiful Galapagos Red-billed Tropicbird often amazes visitors with it’s striking appearance – long elegant tail streamers, bright red beak, and black mask across the eyes.
It is the largest of the world’s Tropicbird species, and one of the most beautiful birds in appearance that you can spot at the Galapagos Islands.
At the Galapagos Islands the Red-billed Tropicbird are sturdy seabirds, spending much of their time out to sea, and only coming to land for breeding. They nest in colonies, preferring rocky walls or ledges on cliffs which offer good shelter.
The Red-billed Tropicbird courtship ritual is quite beautiful. Couples perform spectacular aerial acrobatics together for up to one month at a time – this can be a particularly spectacular moment to spot them. At Galapagos they can breed all year-round, laying just one single egg each time. The incubation period lasts for 6 weeks, and after fledging the new bird will typcially fly the nest to fend for itself.
This bird often likes to forage for food alone, feeding mainly on squid and small fish which they catch by plunge-diving. They have also intelligently learnt to follow other predators such as dolphins or tuna, catching small fish that are driven to the surface by them.
• As graceful as they are in flight, the Red-billed Tropicbird is rather clumsy on land, unable to walk and having to push itself along on it’s belly. For this reason they like to nest on steep cliffs, where walking is largely unnecessary.
• They hate to get their impressive tail streamers wet. It is quite common to see them sitting on the water, with their tail held up in order to keep it dry.
• The Red-billed Tropicbird is nicknamed the Boatswain Bird, due to it’s shrill call that sounds similar to a Boatswain’s whistle
Written by John Potts
John is the original founder of Happy Gringo. He is from London UK and has over 17 years of travel and work experience in Latin America. John ́s biggest passions in life are travel and nature, he has had the pleasure to visit more than 75 different countries, and calls Quito, in Ecuador, home.