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Great Frigatebird

Fregata minor / Atafa
Great frigatebird

The great frigatebird is a large bird, with long, slender wings, deeply forked tail and long, hooked bill. Adults have mostly black plumage with a red inflatable throat pouch. Legs and feet are red to reddish-brown. Females have white breasts and on average are larger than males. Legs and feet are pink to reddish-pink. Juveniles have rusty to white heads and throats.

Great frigatebirds range widely within tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans. Where they have been studied, great frigatebirds do not begin to breed until 9 years of age. Females do not breed every year because it takes a year and a half to raise a chick. Males are believed to breed every year (with a second female). Fidelity to nest sites and mates is low.

Male breeding displays include inflation of crimson throat pouch, spread wings and head shaking. A single egg is laid on a platform nest built in a tree or bush. Both parents develop a brood patch and incubate the egg for about 55 days. Incubation shift change averages every 3 days where they have been studied.

Newly hatched chicks are naked and brooded by parents to protect them from the sun or rain. By 1 month, both parents leave the nest to search for food. Chicks attempt their first flight between 120-145 days. Young will depend on parents, usually the female, for food for up to 18 months after fledging.

Facts About Great Frigatebird

Diet
Lacking the ability to take off from water, frigatebirds snatch prey from the ocean surface using their long, hooked bills. Prey primarily consists of fish and squid. Juveniles and adults often obtain food by piracy from boobies, tropicbirds, and shearwaters. Frigatebirds often supplement their diet by this type of harassment.
Life Span
30 years
Size
Length: 86-100 cm (34-40 in); wingspan: 206-230 cm (81-91 in)
Page Photo Credits — © Mark Rauzon
Last Updated: Feb 11, 2014
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