Phaethon lepturus (White-tailed tropicbird) 

Witpylstert [Afrikaans]; Witstaartkeerkringvogel [Dutch]; Phaéton à bec jaune [French]; Weißschwanz-tropikvogel [German]; Rabijunco-de-bico-amarelo [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Phaethontidae

Phaethon lepturus (White-tailed tropicbird)  images/3633whitetailedtropic_327w.jpg

White-tailed tropicbird (golden-tailed morph), Mozambique Channel. [photo Neil Gray ©]

White-tailed tropicbird, Mozambique Channel. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

The most globally abundant tropicbird, occurring in all tropical and sub-tropical oceans. In southern Africa it is most common in the Mozambique Channel, while more scarce in the area north-west of Namibia, with isolated records along the coast of South Africa.


It eats fish and squid, usually caught by plunge diving from about 20 metres above the water, although it may hawk flying fish aerially.


It breeds in holes and crevices on islands, especially Ascension Island but also islands in the Gulf of Guinea and off the coast of Brazil.


Not threatened, although colonies on remote islands are impacted by habitat loss and the introduction of predators.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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