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Lesser Frigatebird

Fregata ariel / Atafa
Lesser frigatebird

With their distinctive angular, pointed wings and long, scissor-shaped tails, the frigatebirds are perhaps the most recognizable of all seabirds. The male lesser frigatebird is all black, except for a white patch under the wings that extends onto the side of the breast. They have a glossy blue, purple and green sheen to the feathers of the head, neck and upper back region, and, like other male frigatebirds, possess a large, red pouch that is blown up like a balloon during displays to attract a mate. The female is larger than the male, has a less glossy sheen to the black feathers, has a pouch that is not distensible and a white upper breast contrasting with a black throat, with the white extending onto the sides. The juvenile has a reddish-brown head and upper neck and white undersides, and displays a number of immature plumages before eventually taking on that of the adult. 

Frigatebirds have the largest wing area to body mass ratio of any bird, making them perfectly designed for an aerial lifestyle, and with their massive wingspan, these birds are able to soar almost effortlessly and make spectacular maneuvers. While perfectly adapted for magnificent flight maneuvers, the lesser frigatebird is less impressive on land and sea. It has short legs and very small feet, making movements on land quite awkward, while the plumage lacks a waterproof coating and their feet are un-webbed, meaning this bird spends no time on the water. If it sits on the water for more than a minute or two it has great difficulty getting into the air owing to wet plumage. The lack of waterproof plumage means that this species obtains most of its prey either just above, floating on, or submerged a few centimeters below the water surface.
The lesser frigatebird inhabits remote islands in tropical and sub-tropical seas, where it breeds in small bushes, trees and even on the ground. Both sexes contribute to nest building and incubation and feeding of the young. A single egg is laid, and both parents held to incubate it. Both parents tend to the young after hatching, a period that can last many months. An interesting phenomenon at Baker is the nesting behavior of the lesser frigatebird. Frigatebirds typically nest in trees, but this species forms tight colonies with several hundred eggs laid directly on the ground less than 18 inches apart.

Facts About Lesser Frigatebird

Its main source of prey is flying fish (airborne or just beneath the surface), but it also takes squid, jellyfish and scraps discarded by boats, and will often feed over tuna and other predatory fish that drive smaller fish species to the surface.
Life Span
27 years
Length: 71-81 cm (28-32 in); wingspan: 175-193 cm (69-76 in)
Page Photo Credits — USFWS
Last Updated: Feb 11, 2014
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