• Scientifique Name: Phaethon rubricauda Boddaert, 1783
  • Polynesian Names: Ma’uroa, mauroa-hope-‘ura, hope’ura, tavae, tava’e (Société), hope kura, tavake, makuroa (Tuamotu), tavake (Mangareva), toake, toake ku’a (Marquises), tava’e (Australes)
  • Order: Phaethontiformes
  • Family: Phaethontidae
  • CategorySeabirds
  • LocationWhole Polynesia

Apearance and identification

18-19 inches, 36 inches if we include the two central tail feathers. Male and female identical in appearance. Big bird with and all-white plumage except for two black bars on the periphery of the eye and two long red central tail feathers. The beak is red and strong, the legs are pale blue and black at the tip.

Videos

Voice

Characteristics

Tropical and subtropical seas of the Indian and western Pacific. Found throughout French Polynesia.

Especially in July-August in the tropics. Nests alone or in colony. Nests are on the ground, in the shelter of a bush or under a rock along a cliff. Reproduction is studied outside French Polynesia. A single egg is laid (from 64 x 45 mm to 68 x 47 mm). Incubation lasts for 42-50 days. Young leaves the nest after 45 days.

This is the most pelagic of the tropicbirds, often hunts offshore. In the atolls, the colonies are established on beaches or inland, under the cover of vegetation. Found on volcanic islands as well, the birds prefer to nest on cliffs.

A metallic, scratchy and powerful « tichk » ou « couak ».

Squid and fish. Dives 14 meters deep to seizes its preys or on the surface of the water.

Location

Tropical and subtropical seas of the Indian and western Pacific. Found throughout French Polynesia.

Breeding

Especially in July-August in the tropics. Nests alone or in colony. Nests are on the ground, in the shelter of a bush or under a rock along a cliff. Reproduction is studied outside French Polynesia. A single egg is laid (from 64 x 45 mm to 68 x 47 mm). Incubation lasts for 42-50 days. Young leaves the nest after 45 days.

Habitat

This is the most pelagic of the tropicbirds, often hunts offshore. In the atolls, the colonies are established on beaches or inland, under the cover of vegetation. Found on volcanic islands as well, the birds prefer to nest on cliffs.

Voice

A metallic, scratchy and powerful « tichk » ou « couak ».

Food

Squid and fish. Dives 14 meters deep to seizes its preys or on the surface of the water.

Status and protection

Common species in French Polynesia. However, is becoming rare on many sites because of predation by man (the species nests on the ground in the Tuamotu-Gambier). The intentional introduction of cats, dogs or pigs on the islands in the Tuamotu is a common practice. Indeed, the islands often do not belong to anyone, hence the persistence of birds on these islands. Now these introduced mammals have a fierce predation on eggs and young birds. The red tail feather is highly prized by humans, who often tear off the feathers from adults defending their nests.

The species is classified as “Least Concern” (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Original text by Caroline BLANVILLAIN – Supplements and update by various members of the SOP Manu.