I am writing in reference to the sighting of a rare bird in the Indian subcontinent identified as White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus), at South Andaman islands (India). According to records, this bird has been sighted only eight times in last 150 years in India and was last sighted in the Andamans in the 19th century!
On 3rd March 2016 I spotted a white tern-like bird flying over the Bay of Bengal near Ross Island, but could not photograph it. But the very next day, on 4th March 2016, I was able to photograph a similar specimen near the Port Blair jetty. The bird was white overall with very long central tail feathers and black bands on the wings with a yellow beak.
I confirmed the ID with Tim and Carol Inskipp, reputed birdwatchers and authors of the extremely popular Helm’s Field guide to the Birds Of The Indian Subcontinent. I am glad to report the presence of this rare vagrant to the islands having spotted it twice in the Andamans.
The white-tailed Tropicbird is the smallest of the tropicbirds, a group of elegant seabirds renowned for their greatly elongated tail streamers that extend from the wedge-shaped tail. This species has a very large range, found across much of the tropical oceans, including the southern Indian Ocean, western and central Pacific, Caribbean and south Atlantic Ocean.
Reference: BirdLife International. 2012. Phaethon lepturus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012. Downloaded on 06 September 2016.
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The white-tailed Tropicbird is the smallest of the tropicbirds, and this is just the eighth sighting record of this species in India in the last 150 years!