Living Bird Magazine
Magnificent FrigatebirdFregata magnificens
- ORDER: Suliformes
- FAMILY: Fregatidae
Beachgoers delight in this large, black pterodactyl-like bird that soars effortlessly on tropical breezes with hardly a flap, using its deeply forked tail to steer. Watching a Magnificent Frigatebird float in the air truly is, as the name implies, magnificent. These master aerialists are also pirates of the sky, stealing food from other birds in midair. Males have a bright red pouch on the throat, which they inflate like a balloon to attract females. Females unlike most other seabirds look different than males with their white chest.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Magnificent Frigatebirds soar along the coast in the southern United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean staying near water; a perfect excuse for a walk on the beach. They tend to take flight later in the afternoon when winds and thermals are greatest, helping keep them aloft. Look for their long and angular wings and slender silhouette soaring effortlessly alone or with a group of frigatebirds. If you hear gulls and seabirds making a ruckus, look up and you might find a frigatebird harassing them for their meal.
- Rabihorcado Magnífico (Spanish)
- Frégate superbe (French)
- Cool Facts
- Frigatebirds are the only seabirds in which the male and female look strikingly different. Females may not have the males' bright red pouch, but they are bigger than males.
- The breeding period of the Magnificent Frigatebird is exceptionally long. Males and females incubate the eggs for around 56 days, and once hatched, chicks don't leave the nest until they are about 167 days old. Even after they leave the nest, females continue to feed them until they are one year old.
- The Magnificent Frigatebird spends most of its life flying effortlessly over the ocean. It rarely lands on the water even though it has webbed feet, because unlike other seabirds it lacks waterproof feathers.
- The frigatebird is sometimes called the "man-o-war bird" because it harasses other birds until they regurgitate recently captured food, which the frigatebird snatches in midair.
- Learning how to chase other birds and steal meals takes practice. Young frigatebirds hold sticks in their mouths and chase each other. When one of them drops the stick, the other dives below to retrieve it.
- The oldest known Magnificent Frigatebird was at least 19 years, 9 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased in the Lesser Antilles during a scientific study.