|Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Aves (Birds) Order: Ciconiiformes Family: Phaethontidae|
Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda)
Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda) is a local resident in Nicobar islands of India. Size: 46 cm. The red-tailed tropicbird has mostly white plumage with a black eye patch, wings are white with a small amount of black in the primary feathers, and two elongated, red tail feathers. The beak is bright red and the legs and feet are blue-gray. These remarkable seabirds display two elongated central tail feathers during courtship flight displays at their breeding colonies on tropical islets. Each of the streamers takes 180 days to grow and the two streamers are grown alternately so for most of the year a bird shows a single partly worn fully-grown streamer and a second growing streamer. Only for a brief period during courtship do pairs display two fully-grown streamers, one of which (the older) is dropped shortly after laying. Fully grown streamer length is highly variable across individuals, stays nearly the same between years within individuals, and has no relationship with body condition, body size, age or any measure of breeding performance - a typical sexually selected trait.
Red-tailed tropicbirds usually feed during the day, are solitary feeders and rarely fish within sight of land. They dive, wings half folded, into the water to catch their prey. Their diet consists of flying fish, mackerel, dolphinfish, balloonfish, and squid.
They perform complex aerial courtship displays - two to several birds in a
courting group will fly up and backwards in vertical circles, one ahead of
the other, switching the two red tail feathers from side to side in an
exaggerated manner. Reaching a peak height while flying backwards, they then
reverse direction and glide down and forward to begin the upward and backward
flight again, all the time accompanied by harsh squawking.