Far From Home: Red-Billed Tropicbird in Maine

Carver's Harbor, Vinalhaven

Carver’s Harbor, Vinalhaven

For the past several years a Red-billed Tropicbird has been reported around Seal Island in Maine.  After some necessary planning well in advance, we went out there last Sunday with some friends to see if we could get a look at this bird, normally resident in tropical waters.  We had seen the bird before, but in the Galapagos Islands, part of its normal range.  Its presence in Maine is a mystery.  We took a ferry from Rockland to Vinalhaven and there chartered a lobster boat which took us out to Seal Island.  The bird spends its days foraging at sea, returning to Seal Island at about four p.m.  The trip out was filled with terrific bird sightings too, Gannets, Black Guillemots, Manx Shearwaters, Great Cormorants and Bald Eagles, to name a few.  Once we got to Seal Island, we went around it, seeing many Atlantic Puffins (the island is part of the Puffin Restoration Project), Common and Arctic terns, Razorbills, Common Murres and many gulls.

Red-billed Tropicbird

Red-billed Tropicbird

Almost on the dot of four, a sharp-eyed member of our group (not me!) spotted the Tropicbird.  It came streaming in like a jet fighter, upsetting all the terns, who flew up and scattered.  We watched for an hour while he dive-bombed the terns, over and over, calling “Kek kek kek kek kek!!!” as he dropped out of the sky.  This seemed to be play for him as he did nothing to harm them (although the constant disruption must take some toll).  The terns went after him in return and he occasionally lit on the water with his long streamer of a tail cocked out behind him.

Arctic Terns in Flight

Arctic Terns in Flight

Sated with Tropicbird, we returned to Vinalhaven for the night.  The vivid memory of this day still brings a big smile to my face, five days later.

Owl's Head Light, on the Way back to Rockland on the Ferry.

Owl’s Head Light, on the Way back to Rockland on the Ferry.


5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Carla said,

    What a delightful day that must have been. He is a very elegant bird. Hard to believe it’s been a year since I was there with you! Carla


  2. 3

    peg said,

    Lovely photos, thanks for sharing!


  3. 5

    jacque said,

    Wow, what a sighting!


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