Red-billed Tropicbird: Seasonal Occurrence & Geographic Distribution

*Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus

Lower Coast Status: Rare in summer and fall in the Gulf of Mexico. Red-billed Tropicbirds have been recorded in Texas from April through November. Five records for the Lower Texas Coast: off South Padre Island, 18 July 2001, 24 September 2004, 17 June 2005, 17 Sept 2005 and 16 July 2011.

TX Status: Rare with most of the 13 documented records from offshore.

Habitat: This species is found in Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean, as well as the eastern Pacific and northern Indian Ocean. Birds that show up in Texas waters are likely from the Atlantic race (P.a.mesonata). At least several of the Texas records (including the South Texas bird) have been juveniles. Unlike other pelagic species, Red-billed Tropicbirds are occasionally found in the relatively shallow waters over the continental shelf. Sometimes follows boats.

Similar Species: Although Red-billed is the only tropicbird to be recorded in Texas waters, White-tailed Tropicbird is a potential vagrant (some say overdue) in Texas waters. Red-billed Tropicbird can be distinguished from White-tailed Tropicbird in both adults and juvenile plumage by having black primary coverts. Compared to juvenile White-tailed, juvenile Red-billed also has an eyeline that meets behind the nape and a more finely barred back.

*Texas Review Species, requiring written or photographic documentation.            © Copyright  Brad McKinney  31 October 31, 2004 (Status updated by Garett Hodne Nov 2014 )


The graph below shows the number and date of all Red-billed Tropicbird sightings on all Texas Pelagics from 1992 to 2014:
RBTR Graph


This map shows the geographic distribution of Red-billed Tropicbird sightings (red stars) on 27 Texas Pelagics from 1992 to 2014, mostly from South Padre Island, but also including 1 trip from Port Aransas and 2 trips from Port O’Connor. Sighting coordinates from the remaining 25 + Texas Pelagics are not available.

Red-billed Tropicbird sighting have occurred over the outer shelf and into deep pelagic waters.

View Red-billed Tropicbird Distribution in a larger map

Click on the box in the upper left of the map to view the map legend.

Click on each sighting symbol and the data label will appear showing the time, date and the number of birds seen.

Click on the link on the bottom of the map to view a larger map

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