Magnificent Frigatebird

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Image:Magnificent Frigatebird.JPG

Common Name: Magnificent Frigatebird
Scientific Name: Fregata magnificens

Size: 39 inches (100 cm); 215 cm wingspan

Habitat: Worldwide; widespread in the tropical Atlantic, breeding colonially in trees in Florida, the Caribbean and Cape Verde Islands. It also breeds along the Pacific coast of the Americas from Mexico to Ecuador including the Galapagos Islands.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 200,000 mature individuals. The population trend is increasing in North America.

A recent study found that the Magnificent Frigatebird on the Galapagos Islands is genetically and morphologically distinct. Based on this study, the Galapagos population has not been exchanging any genes with their mainland counterparts for several hundred thousand years. Given these findings, the Galapagos population of this tropical seabird may be its own genetically distinct species warranting a new conservation status. This small population of genetically unique Magnificent Frigatebirds is a vulnerable population. Any catastrophic event or threats by humans could wipe out the approximate 2,000 Magnificent Frigatebirds that nest on the Galapagos Islands.

Diet: Fish, squid, turtles, crabs, jellyfish, and offal. Frigatebirds snatch food from the surface of water while flying past, and they chase other birds to force them to disgorge food, which is caught in flight before it hits the water.

Breeding: This species of frigatebird is similar to other frigatebirds with this exception; it lacks a white axillary spur. Males are all black with a scarlet throat pouch which is inflated like a balloon in the breeding season. Although the feathers are black, the scapular feathers produce a purple iridescence when they reflect sunlight. Females are black, but have a white breast and lower neck sides, a brown band on the wings and a blue eye ring. Immature birds have a white head and under parts and juveniles show a distinctive diamond-shaped belly patch.

In a spectacular courtship display, male Magnificent Frigatebirds sit in varying size groups, throat sacs inflated, clattering their bills, waving their heads back and forth, quivering their wings, and calling to females flying overhead. The breeding period of the Magnificent Frigatebird is exceptionally long and young fledglings are often still being fed by the female at one year of age.

Frigatebirds nest in colonies. Nests are a flat or slightly hollowed platform of sticks and twigs, with some finer material such as grass or vines as lining. The nest is placed on flat tops of low bushes or trees.

Cool Facts: Frigatebirds are the only seabirds where the male and female look strikingly different. Frigatebirds are sometimes called “Man O' Wars”; which reflects its rakish lines, speed, and aerial piracy of other birds.

Even though the Magnificent Frigatebird spends most of its life flying over the ocean, it will rarely (if ever) land on the water. It spends days and nights on the wing, with an average ground speed of 10 km/hour, covering over 200 km before landing. They alternately climb in thermals, to altitudes occasionally as high as 2500 m, and descend to near the sea surface. The only other bird known to spend days and nights on the wing is the Common Swift.

Found in Songbird ReMix Seabirds Volume 2

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