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Phaethontidae – Tropicbirds

Red-billed Tropicbird in Hawai’i: Photo by Sharif Uddin

Welcome to our guides on Phaethontidae, a family found in tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide. With three species known as tropicbirds, this family is interesting for its elegant aerial displays and striking appearance.

Overview of Phaethontidae

Tropicbirds, with their pristine white plumage and elongated central tail feathers trailing behind, exude elegance as they glide over tropical seas. Despite their awkwardness on land, they become masters of the air, executing breathtaking aerial maneuvers to evade frigatebirds or engage in captivating courtship rituals. Preferring to breed on remote oceanic islands, they are true pelagic wanderers, spending the majority of their lives traversing the open ocean in pursuit of flying fish and squid. Their serrated bills likely aid in their precision while snatching prey from the water’s surface.