Tropicbirds

White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus
There are a handful of reports of White-tailed Tropicbird (née Yellow-billed Tropic Bird) in Northeast Florida. Historical reports include an exhausted individual collected in Ponte Vedra Beach (in neighboring St. Johns County) that later died in rehab (7 September 1950), and a partial specimen collected by Sam Grimes in Jacksonville Beach 2 days later (McKay, 1951).

On 20 September 1967, Virge Markgraf reported one she was able to “identify carefully” in south Jacksonville Beach (Robertson and Ogden, 1968). Other observations occurred 12 and 13 May 2001, forty-two and nineteen miles offshore, respectively…both by Roger Clark aboard the Mayport Princess. The most recent report was 16 May 2006 about thirty miles offshore of Mayport.

I certainly would not expect to see this species from shore (or even near shore), but would not be shocked one day to find one around Huguenot Memorial Park where most of the other “reasonable” pelagic birds and alcids have been reported over many years. White-tailed Tropicbirds do breed in Bermuda, which is roughly due east of Jacksonville and there are many records from pelagic trips just south of our area.

Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus
On 9 October 1975, Sam Grimes collected Florida’s first verifiable record of Red-billed Tropicbird in Ponte Vedra Beach (Edscorn, 1976). The exact location of recovery isn’t known so it’s possible it was collected in Duval County, but most likely it was collected not too far over the county line in St. Johns County. I include it here because…well, because quite frankly it’d be a shame not to.

Page updated 29 Jan 2019.