The most graceful seabird in Galápagos
Information about Red-Billed Tropicbird
The Red-Billed Tropicbird can be found in various locations throughout the Pacific and Atlantic tropics, but the Galápagos is home to one of the key population centres. These are true seabirds, who spend most of their time far from land, only coming ashore to breed and nest. They prefer to seek out remote and secluded places, which is why they have been coming to the Galápagos for millennia.
At first sight, the Red-Billed Tropicbird looks similar in shape to terns and related seabirds, but then you notice the distinctive elongated tail streamers. When floating on the surface of the ocean, they hold their long tails up out of the water, giving them a distinctive look. They also sport a crimson beak, which gives them their name, and a jet black stripe through the eye giving them a striking appearance in flight.
They are strong swimmers, and they hunt by plunge-diving from height into the water to spear fish or squid. This specialisation makes them very ungainly on land, where they are barely able to walk, having to use their wings to push themselves along on their bellies. This makes them vulnerable, which is why remote and untouched places like the Galápagos are important breeding sites for them.
In Galápagos, the Tropicbirds can breed year round, and they nest in colonies - prefer either rocky crevices, or on sheltered bare ground. Although the red-billed tropicbird is doing well on the archipelago, worldwide this species is the most at risk of all the tropicbirds. It’s estimated that there are only 7,500 left throughout the world, with a significant percentage of these calling the Galápagos home.
Interesting facts about Red-Billed Tropicbird
The Red-Billed Tropicbird is the largest of the world's tropicbird species
They don't like getting their beautiful tail streamers wet, and will hold them up when floating on the water!
Tropicbirds are pelagic - that is they spend all of their time out at sea, returning to land only to breed
Although doing well on Galápagos, there are thought to be only 7,500 red-billed tropicbirds in the world
Pictures of Red-Billed Tropicbird
Highlights where the Red-Billed Tropicbird can be seen
Darwin Bay is a must-visit site for birdwatchers. Starting with a landing on a beautiful white coral beach you are able to follow an easy half-mile trail that will take you through bird-filled mangroves. Species that can be seen on this part of the trail include Nazca Boobies, Galápagos red-footed Boobies, and Swallow-Tailed gulls.
As the path continues you will find tidal pools - favourite spots for Galápagos Sea Lions to lazily swim and play. At the path's end you will come to the top of a cliff which will reward you with a spectacular view.
Champion Islet is considered one of the best snorkeling sites in the entire archipelago. This small island was originally named after a famous whaler, Andrew Champion, and in its beautiful waters you can see Galápagos Sea Lions, Green Turtles, Hammerheads, Rays, and many colorful reef fish.
Champion Islet isn't only for those who seek out marine life. On shore you can find Galápagos Penguins, Blue-Footed Boobies and Frigatebirds to name but a few. One very special resident is the Floreana Mockingbird. This species is extremely rare, with only an estimated 100 individuals left - of which only 30-40 of them are left on this island. It is unknown how much longer this fragile species can survive.
Prince Philip's Steps
Named after Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who visited the Galápagos Islands twice, the Prince Philip's Steps pier uses natural rock formations to allow you to land and admire the variety of seabirds that inhabit Genovesa. With careful steps on the wet and slippery lower rocks, you begin your hike near a small colony of Galápagos sea bears before reaching the beautiful vantage point further up with views of the lava plains.
The birdlife will surround you from all sides and you will enjoy the sight and sounds of many wonderful species, including blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies and Nazca boobies, but also small Galápagos owls and Galápagos pigeons.
Marchena is the largest of the northern Galápagos Islands, but with no land-based visitor sites it is rarely seen by anyone - even scientists and National Park Wardens are very infrequent visitors.
The main attraction here is the snorkeling off Marchena's coast. The deep, clear waters and calmer seas here make exploring this undersea world a magical experience.
There is a huge variety of tropical fish at Punta Mejia, and when you go into the water accompanied by your Galapatours expert guide you are also likely to see rays, a variety of sharks, and green sea turtles to name but a few.
Like her big sister Daphne Major, Daphne Minor is a barren, treeless extinct remains of a tuff cone. There are no visitor sites on Daphne Minor, but a panga ride along her shores will give the opportunity for some snorkeling.
Here is where Daphne Minor shows her true colors - literally. An unusually large amount of smaller underwater organisms live on the rocky undersea walls of the island, creating a real multi-colored environment amongst the black and grey rocks.
A walk on South Plaza
Whilst her twin, North Plaza, is closed to visitors, South Plaza is one of the best visitor sites in the Galápagos thanks to the large number of species present on her small area.
The Plazas were formed as the result of a geological uplift, and because this was uneven they both have cliffs on their south sides and low lying shores on their northern coasts.
The most noticeable (and noisiest) of South Plaza's residents are her Galápagos Sea Lions, who have a large colony here. Less obvious are her land iguanas (the smallest in the islands), many marine iguanas and large numbers and varieties of seabirds.
Inland is a mix of scrubby vegetation and giant opuntia cactus forest, providing food for the iguanas. As you follow the circular hiking trail you will come to the summit of the cliffs here where you'll be among countless nesting seabirds.
Our trips to spot the Red-Billed Tropicbird