• Jeff

The Magnificent Frigatebird

Updated: May 14, 2021

The oldest known Magnificent Frigatebird was at least 19 years, 9 months old when it was recaptured and re released in the Lesser Antilles during a scientific study.

These were spotted along highway 82 mile marker 22 heading east to holly beach.

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.

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.

Frigatebirds soar effortlessly over the ocean rarely flapping their long, pterodactyl-like wings and using the long tail to steer. Though they are frequently seen soaring, they are masters of pursuit. They chase other birds including frigatebirds, forcing them to regurgitate their recent meal, which they scoop up before it hits the water. Their gracefulness ends as soon as they head towards land, where they awkwardly perch in low shrubs and trees. Their strong toes help them hold onto branches, posts, and boat masts, but their small feet in combination with their short legs makes it nearly impossible for them to walk on land. On land, males often flutter the balloonlike throat sac (or "gular pouch") to cool off. Males and females also regulate their body temperature by holding up their wings up to sun themselves. To get airborne, they flap a few times and use the wind to help lift them into the air. Male Magnificent Frigatebirds gather in groups to court females. They perch in low trees and shrubs with their red throat sac inflated like a balloon and clatter their bills, waving their heads back and forth, and calling at females flying overhead. Females choose a mate and begin building a nest on the male's display perch. The pair stays together for up to 3 months, after which the male leaves and the female raises the chick alone for up to 1 year.

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.


Pictures by Jeff from my backyard. Canon SX70HS

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