Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
THE TROPIC BIRD.
PHAETON AETHEREUS, Linn.
PLATE CCCCXXVII.--ADULT MALE AND FEMALE.
The specimens from which the figures in the plate were taken, were obtained
on the Tortugas, in the summer of 1832, by my kind friend ROBERT DAY, Esq. of
the United States revenue cutter Marion. They were shot out of a flock of eight
or ten, and were in fine condition. I have represented the male and female, in
what I suppose to be their full summer or breeding plumage; but not having had
an opportunity of studying the habits of this remarkable bird, I am unable to
give any information respecting them.
PHAETON AETHEREUS, Bonap. Syn., p. 409.
TROPIC BIRD, Nutt. Man., vol. ii. p. 503.
TROPIC BIRD, Phaeton aethereus, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iii. p. 442.
Male, 29 1/2, 38. Female, 26, 34.
Rare on the coast of Florida. Migratory.
Adult Male in summer.
Bill as long as the head, stout, very much compressed, slightly curved,
tapering, acute. Upper mandible with the dorsal line slightly arched, the ridge
narrow, but rounded, the sides sloping and slightly convex at the base, nearly
perpendicular towards the end, the edges sharp, irregularly broken, the tip
acute. Nasal groove short, near the ridge; nostrils linear, very small. Lower
mandible with the angle of moderate length, extremely narrow, the dorsal line
straight and ascending, the sides erect and slightly convex, the edges sharp but
irregularly serrated, the tip very acute.
Head rather large, ovate. Neck short and thick. Body rather full. Feet
very short; tibia bare for a considerable space; tarsus extremely short,
roundish, covered all round with small round scales; toes rather small, placed
in the same place, and connected by reticulated webs; the first toe very small,
the third and fourth about equal, all scutellate above. Claws small, arched,
compressed, rather sharp, that of middle toe largest, with an undulated thin
Plumage soft, blended, on the back and wings rather compact. Wings long,
acute; primaries strong, tapering, the first longest, the rest rapidly
graduated; secondaries very short, incurved, rounded, the inner longer. Tail of
twelve feathers, wedge-shaped, the two middle feathers extremely elongated,
narrow, and tapering.
Bill orange-red. Iris brown. Tarsi and base of toes yellow, the rest and
the webs black, as are the claws. The general colour of the plumage is pale
pink, or white tinged with carmine, the two middle tail feathers redder. A
curved spot before the eye, and band behind it, black. A band of the same
colour extends across the wing from the flexure, running narrow along the middle
coverts, much enlarged on the inner secondaries and their coverts, and including
the extremities of the scapulars. The outer webs, shafts, and a portion of the
inner webs of the first four primary quills, are also black, and there is a spot
of the same on some of the primary coverts. The shafts of the two middle tail
feathers are black, excepting towards the end; and some of the long
hypochondrical feathers are greyish-black in the centre.
Length to end of tail 29 1/2 inches, to end of wings 16, to end of claw 14;
extent of wings 38; wing from flexure 11 1/4; tail 19 1/8; bill along the ridge
2, along the edge of lower mandible 2 3/4; tarsus 1 10/12; middle toe 1 4/12,
its claw (4 1/2)/12. Weight 15 oz.
The female resembles the male, but is less tinged with red. The bill is
yellow, the iris and feet as in the male. The tail-feathers are also less
Length to end of tail 26 inches, to end of wings 14 1/4, to end of claws
13; wing from flexure 11; tail 16; extent of wings 34; bill along the ridge
11/12, along the edge of lower mandible 2 1/2; tarsus 10/12; middle toe 1 4/12,
its claw (4 1/2)/12. Weight 12 oz.