Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Red-billed Tropicbird

The final day of February found me on the rugged south-east coast of the island, on a cliff which was being relentlessly and violently pounded by angry waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  Some of the waves were so large that they reached a couple feet over the cliff which was more than 30’ in some areas.  It was in these harsh conditions that one of the most rarely seen, locally breeding birds of Barbados was found, the Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus).

Photo by Dr. John Webster

These beautiful and graceful birds spend most of their life at sea but return to nest in holes or crevices on the south-east, east and northern sea cliffs of the island.  Red-billed Tropicbirds are 18-20” in length excluding the two centre tails or plumes which can be double the length of the bird.  It is a white bird with black eye patches, black barring on the back, black wing tips and of course a red bill.

I spent an hour observing these birds with some flying in and out of crevices in the sea cliff.  I counted about eight birds within that time.
The Red-billed Tropicbird is one of only two pelagic bird species with a history of nesting on the island. If all goes to plan, in April I will be telling you about the other pelagic bird so look out for that.