Genus Phaeton

The three species of tropicbirds are the smallest of the Pelecaniformes, mainly white with black markings and very elongated central tail feathers. Two species have red bills, the other one has a yellow bill. Young birds of all species have yellowish bills with a black tip. The White-tailed Tropicbird is the smallest of the three. Confined to the tropical seas, but wander widely, sometimes drifted to temperate regions by hurricanes.

  • Red-billed Tropicbird Phaeton aethereus. Three  subspecies:
    • P. a. aethereus. Atlantic: breeding Fernando Noronha, Ascension and St. Helena.
    • P. a. mesonauta. Eastern Pacific: Gulf of California south to Galapagos. Peru, Tropical Atlantic ocean.
    • P. a. indicus. Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Arabian sea.
  • Red-tailed Tropicbird Pheaton  rubricauda. Four subspecies:
    • P. r. rubricauda. Indian Ocean: Aldabara, Comoros, Mauritius and Seychelles
    • P. r. melanorhynchos. Tropical Pacific: Bonin, Hawaiian, Volcano, New Caledonia to Pitcairn Is.
    • P. r. roseotincta. Southwest Pacific.
    • P. r. westralis. Off Northwest Australia.
  • White-tailed Tropicbird Pheaton lepturus.  Five subspecies: 
    • P. l. lepturus. Indian Ocean: Aldabra, Comoro,Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion, Chagos, Maldives, Andaman and Cocos Is.
    • P. l. catesbyi. Atlantic: Bermuda , Caribbean Islands.
    • P. l. ascensionis. Atlantic : dubious subspecies : breeding Frenando Noronha, Ascension and off Guinea.
    • P. l. dorothea. Pacific: From Hawaiian Chain to New Caledonia
    • P. l. fulvus. Pacific: Christmas I.

White-tailed Tropicbird
Phaeton lepturus lepturus Seychelles
Total: 89.5 mm

Red-billed Tropicbird
Phaeton aethereus mesonauta Galapagos Islands
Unsexed adult. Courtesey of M. v. Leeuwen