Red-Billed Tropicbirds on Little Tobago

There are three varieties of tropicbird in the world, none of which are seen often by people.

red-billed tropicbird sitting on a nest

That's because they spend most of their lives as solitary individuals far out to sea.   The only time they congregate is when nesting.

three red-billed tropicbirds at a nest

When I came across this tropicbird stumbling along the ground, I was sure that it was severely injured.   Then I realized that its extremely ungainly gait was purely a result of its incredibly short legs, which you can see in this picture.

red-billed tropicbird stumbling along the ground

In the air it's a totally different situation.   The tropicbirds soared and banked effortlessly in the ocean breezes.

red-billed tropicbird  flying high overhead
red-billed tropicbird soaring above

With such a maritime lifestyle it's surprising that they don't swim well, although they are very buoyant.   Nevertheless, they dive down onto fish and immediately take to the air again.

red-billed tropicbird flying in crouching posture

They loved playing in the updrafts created by the winds blowing off the ocean onto the island, flying so fast that it was difficult to take photographs.

red-billed tropicbird banking above land and sea
red-billed tropicbird flying against forest background
red-billed tropicbird diving against forest background
red-billed tropicbird rising against forest background