Frank Rivera-Milán

Reproductive Success of Red-Billed Tropicbirds (Phaethon aethereus) on St. Eustatius, Caribbean Netherlands


The daily nest-survival rates of Red-billed Tropicbirds (Phaethon aethereus) were estimated over six breeding seasons on St. Eustatius in the Caribbean. We analyzed 338 nesting attempts between 2013 and 2020. The daily survival rate (DSR) of tropicbird nests was modeled as a function of nest initiation date, sea surface temperature (SST), elevation, vegetation in front of the nest, and year. Yearly nest survival rates (± SE) of the best fitting models ranged from 0.21 ± 0.06–0.74 ± 0.13 (n = 338 nests). DSR of the most parsimonious models averaged 0.39 ± 0.04 during the incubation period, 0.83 ± 0.05 during the chick-rearing period, and 0.30 ± 0.04 during the nesting period (incubation through fledging) when data were pooled across all years. Models with linear and quadratic trends of nest initiation date combined with SST and elevation received strong support in the incubation and nesting periods. Nests initiated in peak nesting season, when SSTs were lower, had higher DSR estimates than nests initiated early or late in the season. Compared to studies of the same species from Saba and the Gulf of California, survival probability on St. Eustatius was lower during the incubation stage but higher during the chick-rearing period. Similar to populations in the Gulf of California, tropicbird reproduction differed and laying date varied among years, and survival was influenced by SST. Our results are consistent with a study on White-tailed Tropicbirds (Phaethon lepturus) in Bermuda which found that survival was affected by temporal factors rather than physical site characteristics. Our study contributes to a better understanding of the factors that influence Red-billed Tropicbird survival on a small Caribbean island

Data type
Scientific article
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
St. Eustatius