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Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens


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Magnificent Frigatebird, male
credit: John Picken/CCSA

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Family: Fregatidae, Frigatebirds view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Mostly all-dark, but purple sheen is seen in good light. Bright red throat sac is inflated in display. ADULT FEMALE Lacks male's throat sac and has white on belly. JUVENILE Mainly dark, but note the white head, neck, and belly patch, and brown upper wing coverts.

Dimensions Length: 38-40" (97-102 cm)Wngspn: 7' 6" (2.3 m)

Habitat Breeds on the Dry Tortuga islands, Florida; outside the protracted breeding season, wanders and mainly pelagic, or coastal around Caribbean islands, but also visits the Gulf coast.

Observation Tips Usually easy to see on the Florida Keys throughout the year.

Range Florida, Southwest, Southeast, Texas, California

Voice Mainly silent.

Discussion Huge and unmistakable seabird with something of a prehistoric look about it. Has extremely long, pointed, and angular-looking wings, long and deeply forked tail, and long, hook-tipped bill. Aerial mastery is aided by excellent weight:wing area ratio (its feathers weigh more than its bones). Soars and glides effortlessly but capable of amazing speed and agility when in pursuit of food (it picks fish from the surface of the sea) or when parasitizing other feeding birds (forces them to regurgitate or drop their last meal). Breeds colonially in trees, notably coastal mangroves; nest is a stick platform. Sexes are dissimilar.