Santa Claus is in high gear making his annual Christmas Eve trip around the globe, with his reindeer-powered sleigh loaded with gifts for good boys and girls. 

Santa took off from the North Pole at around 6 a.m. ET on Tuesday with Rudolph's red nose guiding the way.

The North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad), which is responsible for joint air and maritime defence in Canada and the United States, tracks Santa with a combination of radar, satellites, cameras and fighter jets.

Santa was "sticking to the same flight plan as he provided us," Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Lewis, stationed at the North American Aerospace Defence Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., said on Tuesday.

Satellite images available on Norad's website show Santa's minute-by-minute progress. By Tuesday afternoon he had visited New Zealand, Australia, Asia and parts of Africa.

Santa is expected to reach the shores of North America at about 10 p.m. ET, as part of the final leg of his journey around the world. By evening, he had delivered over four billion gifts.

The latest information available from Norad said Santa appeared to be in good spirits and his reindeer are doing fine.

With files from Reuters