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What is a Frigatebird?

A frigatebird is a marvel of the avian world, known for its impressive wingspan and aerial agility. These seabirds are masters of the sky, often gliding for weeks over oceans. With their forked tails and hooked beaks, they're built for endurance. Intrigued by these soaring sentinels of the sea? Discover how they've captivated sailors and scientists alike.
Elva K.
Elva K.

The frigatebird typically has black plumage, a forked tail, and usually weighs approximately 3 pounds (1.5 kg). Female frigatebirds typically have a white underbelly, while male frigatebirds usually have a very bright red throat sac. Despite their light weight, the wing spread of a frigatebird can be in excess of 6.5 feet (2 m). Long billed and long tailed with short legs and webbed feet, the frigatebird is awkward in movement on the ground and cannot swim but is very graceful in flight.

In fact, frigatebirds are so graceful in flight they are able to remain in the air for more than a week while landing only for roosting or breeding purposes. Not surprisingly, they use their excellent flying ability to catch food. For instance, frigatebirds fly and are able to catch squid, jellyfish, and flying fish. Also, they do occasionally steal the fish out of the mouths of gulls or pelicans. In addition, they also eat young seabirds such as terns or noddys.

Frigatebirds feed on squid.
Frigatebirds feed on squid.

Frigatebirds can potentially have a 15- to 30-year lifespan and are often seen in a variety of areas. For instance, frigatebirds have been seen in the Caribbean, western Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, and Florida. Sightings of these birds have also occurred at Ascension Island in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Christmas Island in the southern Pacific Ocean, and in the Galapagos Islands.

The frigatebird is a member of the Fregatidae bird family. Within the Fregatidae family, there are five species of frigatebirds. They are the magnificent frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens) and the great frigatebirds (Fregata minor), the Ascension frigatebirds (Fregata aquila), the Christmas Island frigatebirds (Fregata andrewski), and the lesser frigatebirds (Fregata ariel).

Wherever they are seen, frigatebirds typically will choose to nest on rocky ledges or in trees. Also, when it is time to breed, male frigatebirds will inflate their red throat sac with air. Female frigatebirds will then notice the males and select the male they want and land beside him. In response, the male spreads his wings around that female to protect her from other male frigatebirds.

Female frigatebirds typically bring sticks to the nesting site while males build the nest. From that point, frigatebirds are reportedly seasonally monogamous while they nest colonially. One or perhaps two eggs are laid during each breeding season. Both the male and female feed the younglings for the initial three months; however, during the eight months after that, only the mother feeds the younglings. The male leaves to find another female frigatebird mate.

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    • Frigatebirds feed on squid.
      Frigatebirds feed on squid.