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Great frigatebird

Fregata minor
Photo by Pablo Caceres (Flickr)

Common name:
great frigatebird (en); fragata-grande (pt); frégate du Pacifique (fr); fragata-pelágica (es); bindenfregattvogel (de)

Order Pelecaniformes
Family Fregatidae

These birds are mostly found in the tropical areas of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, between 25º N and 25º S. There are also two colonies in the South Atlantic, on the islands of Trinidade and Martim Vaz, off the coast of Brazil.

Great frigatebirds are 85-105 cm long and have a wingspan of 205-230 cm. They weigh 1-1,6 kg.

These birds breed in small, remote islands, nesting in areas of mangrove, small bushes or on level ground. They forage on pelagic waters up to 80 km away from their breeding colonies.

They often steal food from other sea birds, by harassing them until they drop or regurgitate a recent meal. They also hunt their own food, mostly taking flying fishes and squids, but also other fish, jellyfish and even the eggs and chicks of other birds.

Great frigatebirds can breed all year round, but mostly in December-September. They often form large colonies of up to 3.000 pairs, each building a large nest made of twigs and branches and lined with leaves, which is placed on a mangrove, low bush or on the ground. The female lays a single chalky-white egg which is incubated by both parents for 51-57 days. The chick is fed by both parent and fledge 17-24 weeks after hatching, but may continue to receive food from the parents for another 5-18 months. Each female only breeds once every 2 years.

IUCN status – LC (Least concern)
This species is very widespread, but the actual breeding range is relatively small as they only breed in small offshore islands. The global population is estimated at 340.000-1.000.000 individuals. The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and predation of eggs and young bird by introduced predators.

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