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tropic bird

any of several web-footed seabirds of the family Phaethontidae, chiefly of tropical seas, having white plumage with black markings and a pair of greatly elongated central tail feathers.
Also, tropicbird.
Also called boatswain bird.
1675-85 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for tropicbird


any aquatic bird of the tropical family Phaethontidae, having long slender tail feathers and a white plumage with black markings: order Pelecaniformes (pelicans, cormorants, etc)
Word Origin
C17: so called because it is found in the tropical regions
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Encyclopedia Article for tropicbird

tropic bird

any member of three seabird species that constitute the family Phaethontidae (order Pelicaniformes). Tropic birds are characterized by pairs of streaming central tail feathers, which may be as long as the bird's body. Sailors call them marlin-spikes and bosun birds. Tropic birds have satiny white plumage, sometimes tinged with pink or orange, and black markings across the eyes and on the wings. They nest in island colonies, usually on cliffs, and plunge into the water for fish or squid. The single grayish-speckled egg, laid on bare ground, is incubated by both parents for about a month; the young are fully fledged about 10 weeks later.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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