Volume 50, No. 1

Search by author or title:

The tropicbirds Phaethon spp. of the Islas Desventuradas archipelago, Chile


1Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Section of Ornithology, 900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90007, USA
2Current address: Casilla 15 Melipilla, Chile (
3Santa María 7178, Vitacura, Santiago, Chile


MARÍN, M. & GONZÁLEZ, R. 2022. The tropicbirds Phaethon spp. of the Islas Desventuradas archipelago, Chile. Marine Ornithology 50: 57 - 62

Submitted 27 October 2021, accepted 13 December 2021

Date Published: 2022/04/15
Date Online: 2022/03/18
Key words: archipelago, Islas Desventuradas, eastern South Pacific, Chile, Phaethon, tropicbirds


We found nesting Red-billed and Red-tailed tropicbirds Phaethon aethereus and P. rubricauda in the Islas Desventuradas archipelago, Chile. We visited Islote González on 14-15 December 2020 and on 23 August 2021. During the December visit, we encountered a colony of Red-billed Tropicbirds totaling a minimum of 62 breeding pairs. The nests were in cavities on steep cliffs and slopes located mainly on the northern part of the island, and we were able to access 34, of which 11 had eggs, 11 had nestlings of different ages, and 12 were active but empty. During the August visit, we found 4 nests with adults attending but no eggs or nestlings, 1 nest with a chick close to fledging, and 1 adult attempting to take a nest site from a De Filippi's Petrel Pterodroma defilippiana. We visited San Ambrosio Island on 10-12 December 2019, and we found only the Red-tailed Tropicbird breeding, as evidenced by 4 active nests: 2 with eggs, 1 with a well-grown nestling, and 1 with a pair of adults but no nest contents. However, we observed several pairs in aerial display and estimated the Red-tailed Tropicbird population to be at least 10-12 breeding pairs, in addition to the 5-6 pairs at Islote González and about 8 pairs at San Félix Island. Our findings represent a new Red-billed Tropicbird population and the largest breeding colony of the species for Chile. Furthermore, Islote González is one of the very few known places where sympatric breeding of Red-billed and Red-tailed tropicbirds occur. The White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus is also known to nest at San Félix Island in the Desventuradas archipelago, but we did not visit that island. It appears that all three species of tropicbird nest in this archipelago.


AGUIRRE, J.E., JOHOW, F., SEEGER, H., JOHOW, J.C. & RUBIO, M. 2009. Nuevos registros de aves nidificantes en las Islas Desventuradas, Chile insular. Boletín Chileno de Ornitología 15: 44-55.

BARROS, R. & SCHMITT, F. 2012. Resumen de avistamientos. Septiembre 2011-febrero 2012. La Chiricoca 15: 31-38.

BLAKE, E.R. 1977. Manual of Neotropical Birds, Volume 1. Chicago, USA: University of Chicago Press.

BOURNE, W.R.P. 2014. Birds seen between Valparaíso and Juan Fernandes in the Niño winter of 1983. Sea Swallow 63: 49-52.

CHAPIN, J.P. 1935. Unpublished, field journal and notes from the Zaca cruise, Croker Expedition 1934-35. New York, USA: American Museum of Natural History.

CHESSER, R.T., BANKS, R.C., BARKER, F.K. ET AL. 2010. Fifty-first supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. The Auk 127: 726-744.

CLARK, G.S. 1986. Seabirds observed in the Pacific Southern Ocean during autumn. Australasian Seabird Group Newsletter 23: 1-15.

DEL HOYO, J., ELLIOTT, A. & SARGATAL, J. (Eds.). 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 1. Ostrich to Ducks. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

DICKINSON, E.C. & REMSEN. J.V., JR. (Eds.). 2013. The Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, 4th Edition. Vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Eastbourne, UK: Aves Press.

FLEET, R.R. 1974. The Red-tailed Tropicbird on Kure Atoll. Ornithological Monographs 16: 1-64.

FLORES, M., LAZO, P., CAMPBELL, G. & SIMEONE, A. 2017. Breeding status of the Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda) and threats to its conservation on Easter Island (Rapa Nui). Pacific Science 71: 149-160.

GOODALL, J.D., JOHNSON, A.W. & PHILIPPI, R.A. 1951. Las Aves de Chile: Su Conocimiento y sus Costumbres. Vol. 2. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Platt Establecimientos Gráficos S.A.

GOULD, P.J., KING, W.B. & SANGER, G.A. 1974. Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda). In: KING, W.B. (Ed.) Pelagic Studies of Seabirds in the Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology No. 158. Washington, USA: Smithsonian Institution.

HARRISON, P. & JEHL, J.R., JR. 1988. Notes on the birds of Sala y Gómez. The Condor 90: 259-261.

HERNÁNDEZ-VÁZQUEZ, S., CASTILLO-GUERRERO, J.A., MELLINK, E. & ALMAGUER-HERNÁNDEZ, A.M. 2018. Colony size and breeding success of Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus) on Peña Blanca Island, Colima, Mexico. Waterbirds 41: 128-134.

JEHL, J.R., JR. 1973. The distribution of marine birds in Chilean waters in winter. The Auk 90: 114-135.

JOHNSON, A.W. 1965. The Birds of Chile and Adjacent Regions of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. Vol. 1. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Platt Establecimientos Gráficos S.A.

JOHNSON, A.W., MILLIE, W.R. & MOFFETT, G. 1970. Notes on the birds of Easter Island. Ibis 112: 532-538.

KOEPCKE, M. 1964. Las aves del Departamento de Lima, Perú. Lima, Peru: Talleres Gráfica Morsom S.A.

MARÍN, M. & CACERES, P. 2010. Sobre las aves de Isla de Pascua. Boletín del Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Chile. 59: 75-95.

MARÍN, M. & GONZÁLEZ, R. 2021. A new breeding colony of Blue-footed Booby Sula neuboxii at Islote González, Archipelago Islas Desventuradas, Chile. Marine Ornithology 49: 189-192.

MARÍN, M., GONZÁLEZ, R. & TRUCCO, S. 2020. Population status of the Kermadec Petrel Pterodroma neglecta juana at San Ambrosio Island, Chile. Marine Ornithology 48: 209-214.

MARÍN, M., GONZÁLEZ, R. & TRUCCO, S. 2021. The Black Noddy Anous minutus: a new breeding species for Chile. Marine Ornithology 49: 79-82.

MAYR, E. & COTTRELL, G.W. (Eds.). 1979. Checklist of the Birds of the World. Vol. 1. Second edition (Revision of the Work of James L. Peters). Cambridge, USA: Museum of Comparative Zoology.

MILLIE, W.R. 1963. Brief notes on the birds of San Ambrosio and San Felix islands, Chile. Ibis 105: 563-566.

MURPHY, R.C. 1936. Oceanic Birds of South America, Vol. 1 & 2. New York, USA: The American Museum of Natural History.

NELSON, J.B. 2006. Pelicans, Cormorants, and Their Relatives: The Pelecaniformes. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

ORTIZ-CRESPO, F.I. & AGNEW, P. 1992. The Birds of la Plata Island, Ecuador. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 112: 66-73.

PAEFSLER, R. 1913. Beiträge zur Verbreitrung der Seevögel. Journal für Ornithologie. 61: 41-51.

SCHREIBER, E.A. & SCHREIBER R.W. 1993. Red-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda). In: A. POOLE, A. & GILL, F. (Eds.) The Birds of North America, No. 43. Philadelphia, USA: The Academy of Sciences; Washington, USA: The American Ornithologist's Union.

SCHULENBERG, T.S., STOTZ, D.F., LANE, D.F., O'NEILL, J.P., & PARKER III, T.A. 2007. Birds of Perú. New Jersey, USA: Princeton University Press.

SNOW, D. 1965. The breeding of the Red-billed Tropicbird in the Galapagos Islands. The Condor 67: 210-214.

SPEAR, L.B. & AINLEY, D.G. 2005. At-sea distributions and abundance of tropicbirds in the eastern Pacific. Ibis 147: 353-366.

STONEHOUSE, B. 1962. The tropicbirds (genus Phaethon) of Ascension Island. Ibis 103B: 124-161.

TERÁN, D. & VILCHES, M.J. 2020. Expedición Desventuradas: Una bitácora ornitológica hacia la Isla de San Ambrosio. La Chiricoca 25: 28-44.

VANDERWERF, E.A. 2021. Status and monitoring methods of a Red-tailed Tropicbird colony on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. Marine Ornithology 49: 215-222.

VILINA, Y.A. & GAZITUA, F.J. 1999. The Birds of Sala y Gómez Island, Chile. Waterbirds 22: 459-462.

VILINA, Y.A., GONZALEZ, J.L., GIBBONS, J.E., CAPELLA. J.J. & DIAZ, H. 1994. The southernmost nesting place for the Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus): Chañaral Island, Chile. Colonial Waterbirds 17: 83-85.

Search by author or title:

Browse previous volumes: