The red-billed tropicbird has a strong, energetic flight, using rapid wing-beats rather than gliding or soaring, and it also swims well, with the long tail held up out of the water (3) (5). Usually foraging alone, it typically flies high above the water, sometimes hovering, before plunge-diving to catch fish or squid, or sometimes taking flying fish from the air (2) (3) (6). In contrast, it is extremely awkward on land, using the wings to push itself along on its belly (3) (6).
Breeding occurs in loose colonies, and may take place almost year-round in some areas. The nest is a mere scrape on the ground, and the site may be aggressively defended. A single egg is laid, hatching after 42 to 44 days (2) (3) (6), with the newly hatched chick having pale grey down and fledging after around 80 to 90 days, after which it is abandoned by the adults (2) (6). The red-billed tropicbird attains adult plumage at around two to three years, and first breeds at around five years (3) (6). Lifespan may be as much as 16 years (6). Although this species does not undergo a regular migration, both adults and juveniles disperse widely outside of the breeding season (2) (6).