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White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus
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This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #
Turbott, E. G. 1990. Checklist of the birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

Distribution and population
This species can be found across much of the tropical oceans, including the southern Indian Ocean, western and central Pacific, and south Atlantic Ocean. Breeding colonies are also found in the Carribean (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number > c.50,000 individuals (del Hoyo et al. 1992), while the population in Japan has been estimated at < c.50 individuals on migration (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to predation by invasive species.

The white-tailed Tropicbird can be found over pelagic waters and the coast of tropical and subtropical seas. It feeds on small fish, especially flying-fish, squid and some crustaceans (especially crabs). Its diet varies locally, for example taking mostly fish in the Seychelles. Most prey is caught by plunge-diving but flying-fish can be taken on the wing. Breeding is seasonal in places but elsewhere can be more or less continuous. It is loosely colonial, nesting in rocky crevices or sheltered scrape on the ground on small-remote islands preferring inaccessible spots on cliffs where take-off is relatively easy. It is resident and dispersive, with both adults and juveniles wandering extensively (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Further web sources of information
Click here to read about RSPB's work with Tropicbirds on Ascension Island

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Calvert, R.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Phaethon lepturus. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - White-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Phaethontidae (Tropicbirds)
Species name author Daudin, 1802
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 80,300 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species