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Red Tailed Tropic Bird

Paethon rubricauda
The Red-Tailed Tropic Bird is found mostly in the tropical latitudes of the Pacific and Indian oceans. It is easily recognizable because of its long bright red central tail feathers.

Like other species of tropic-bird, the Red-Tailed Tropic Bird is a pelagic bird, that is, a bird that lives in open oceans and normally only come ashore to breed. It preys on small fish and squid.

Adult birds grow to a length of around 500 centimetres and have a wingspan of just over a metre. They have a bright red beak and white plumage with black stripes around the eyes and black markings on the wing tips.

The bird breeds annually in the southern summer months on island cliffs and rocks, laying one egg.

The most distinctive feature of the bird is its red central tail feathers, which in adult birds are between 40 and 50 centimetres long. Eighteenth-century European voyagers found that the tails feathers were much prized within the Polynesian societies they encountered. They were worn by high ranking men and used in important religious ceremonies.

Hawaiians know the bird by the name of Ko'ae 'Ula, while in Maori it is called Amokura.


Created: 23 March 2004
Modified: 24 March 2004

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000397

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