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Magnificent Frigatebird


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A long-winged, fork-tailed bird of tropical oceans, the Magnificent Frigatebird is an agile flier that snatches food off the surface of the ocean and steals food from other birds. It breeds mostly south of the United States, but wanders northward along the coasts during nonbreeding season.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
35–44.9 in
89–114 cm
85.4–88.2 in
217–224 cm
35.3–67 oz
1000–1900 g
Other Names
  • Man-o'-War-bird
  • Frégate superbe (French)
  • Tijerata de Mar, Fragata magnífica (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • Frigatebirds are the only seabirds where the male and female look strikingly different.
  • 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.
  • The male Magnificent Frigatebird abandons its mate and half-grown chick and leaves the breeding colony, presumably to molt and return for another breeding attempt with a different mate. The female cares for the young for over a year. This difference in parental care allows the male to breed each year while the female breeds only every other year.
  • Although the Magnificent Frigatebird spends most of its life flying over the ocean, it rarely if ever lands on the water.
  • The oldest known Magnificent Frigatebird was at least 19 years, 9 mnths old when it was recaptured and rereleased in the Lesser Antilles during a scientific study.



Breeding habitats include mangrove cays on coral reefs, and deciduous trees and bushes on dry islands. Feeding range while breeding includes shallow water within lagoons, coral reefs, and deep ocean out of sight of land. Ranges along coasts and offshore islands and out at sea.



Fish, squid, turtles, crabs, jellyfish, offal.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1 eggs
Egg Description
Condition at Hatching
Naked and helpless.
Nest Description

Flat or slightly hollowed platform of sticks and twigs, some lined with finer material such as grass or vines. Placed on flat tops of low bushes or trees. Nests in colonies.

Nest Placement




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.Snatches food from surface of water while flying past, and chases other birds to force them to disgorge food, which is caught in flight before it hits the water.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

There is little information on population trends of Magnificent Frigatebird, but they appear to be declining, The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental breeding population of 106,00-174,000 birds, rates the species a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and lists it as a Species of High Concern. Magnificent Frigatebird is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. Declines are mainly due to human destruction of habitat for housing and resorts, and disturbance in colonies. Introduced predators on islands and over-fishing are also potential problems.


Range Map Help

Magnificent Frigatebird Range Map
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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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