Kiritimati: Red-Tailed Tropicbirds

The only colony of red-tailed tropicbirds in Kiritimati is on Motu Ngaontetaake, supposedly around 500 birds. Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda) are beautiful seabird of medium size with white plumage with black markings on their wings and back. They have a distinct long, red tail streamer, which gives them their name. Their bills are long and slender, and they have striking black eye markings. They make simple nests on the ground and in case of Motu Ngaontetaake the nests are mostly under the dry trees and branches. We saw several adolescents and even puffy little chicks. Red-tailed Tropicbirds feed primarily on fish and squid, which they catch by plunge-diving from the air into the ocean. They are known for their graceful flight and aerial displays, including soaring, gliding, and diving.