White-tailed Tropicbird (species: Phaethon lepturus) in Sydney Marine Life (Gaia Guide)
Phaethon lepturus
White-tailed Tropicbird

©kansasphoto: White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus)

©kansasphoto: White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus)

©kansasphoto: White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus)
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Pelecaniformes
Family Phaethontidae
Genus Phaethon
Species Phaethon lepturus
Status least concern



Distinguishing features

The adult is a slender, mainly white bird.  The very long central tail feathers which double its total length. There is a black band on the inner wing There is black through the eye and the bill is orange-yellow to orange red. The bill colour, pure white back and black wing bar distinguish this species from the Red-tailed Tropicbird.

Sexes are similar, although males average longer tails. Juveniles lack the tail streamers, have a green-yellow bill, and a finely barred back. (Wikipedia)


  • Up to 80 cm (Length of specimen)


  • Up to 96 cm



©Atlas of Living Australia: Australian distribution

Distribution and habitat preferences

It occurs in the tropical Atlantic, western Pacific and Indian Oceans. It also breeds on some Caribbean islands. (Wikipedia)


It feeds on fish and squid, caught by surface plunging, though this species is a poor swimmer. (Wikipedia)

Web resources


  • Smith, G.C. (1987). The birds of Eagle Island, a tropical sand cay on the northern Great Barrier Reef, Australia, The Sunbird, 17(1): 1-11. LIRS catalog number 245.