Magnificent Frigatebird Identification, Size, Habitat


Magnificent frigate bird, also famous as “man o war bird,” are not just any other birds. They are one of the largest species of sea birds with magnificent angular scapular feathers. The most prominent thing in these great frigatebirds is their tail shaped like a tong, also known as the famous fork tail. The beak of a frigate bird is also quite different from other birds; it’s pretty long and is hooked at the end.

Frigatebird Size:

The size of the frigate bird lies in between the size of very vast and small birds. Their size is that they are more significant than the Brown Pelican and smaller than the American White Pelican. Their length is about eighty-nine to one hundred and fourteen centimeters.

Their body weight ratio is around thousand to nineteen hundred grams. Their wingspan is vast, and as they have outstretched wings, their size is around two-hundred and seventeen to two-hundred and twenty-four centimeters.

If we roughly talk about their size, they are almost the size of a chicken but with immense enormous wings.

Their complete information is also available at the Macualary Library under the name of ” magnificent frigatebird Fregata magnificens.”

Frigatebird structure:

They do not have very distinctive features other than their pouch and tail. They have tiny feet, which are also mainly used for landing and flying purposes.

Other than that, their wings have a considerable tail which they use for balancing purposes and for grabbing or stealing food from seabird species.

These birds are some of the most prominent aerial birds. However, they can only be seen while sleeping or developing their nests during the breeding season.

Despite being a seabird, frigate birds do not perform well in the water, but there is a reason behind that.

These birds have less preening oil production in their plumage or feathers, which is why they are not entirely or even partially waterproof. But they show their remarkable capabilities in the air, and they also dive at times to grab the falling fishes from the usually panicked booby birds.

Frigatebird range:

Male Magnificent frigatebird has a length of thirty-forty five inches and has a substantial male wingspan of seven to eight feet. Thereby, they come under the category of the ” huge sea birds.” They are usually found in the tropical and subtropical parts of America, between Peru, northern Mexico, on the Pacific coast, and over the pacific oceans and Galapagos islands.

Location and Habitat:

They are found worldwide, and frigate birds are commonly found in tropical and semitropical coastal areas like Galapagos islands and Christmas islands. Frigate bird usually does not migrate or fly for more extended periods or distances. They typically remain under the radius of a hundred kilometers as they have to come back for the roosting.

Mating and Breeding:

As the breeding season approaches, the magnificent frigatebird begins to crowd up on their relative islands. The breeding takes place on fully crowded islands. Both male and female participate in the breeding and nurturing of young birds. These birds lay only one egg which they incubate for hatching.

Breeding habitat:

The magnificent frigatebird is monogamous, and some say they are pretty romantic as they stick to only one partner throughout their life. Breeding season can take place for two years, which also includes the period of parental care.

They are colonial and breed in hundreds and thousands of pairs. Their breeding habitat is usually the bushes and branches of trees. But, sometimes, they have to produce and nest on the land as they have their nests. lace and vegetation to build their nests

 Male frigate bird:

Nearly all male birds have the overall black body and bellies, whereas females, on the other hand, have a white part below of their bodies. This factor distinguishes males from females. Adult males have a very distinctive feature through which they attract females.

To attract females, they have a bare-skinned throat pouch. During the time of the courtship, it turns into a bright red pouch. This throat pouch changes its size so that it can attract females and impress them. Male frigate bird turns this pouch almost to the size of the head of a person.

Frigatebird species:

Five species come under the category of “Frigate bird.” The biggest one is the “Magnificent frigatebird,” which is about forty-five inches in length. The scientific name for this particular species is “Fregata magnificens.”

Magnificent frigatebirds are most commonly found on the coastal areas of Southern America, the Caribbean Sea, and Cape Verde islands. The other birds include the lesser frigate bird and the greater frigatebird known as F.ariel and F.minor. The former species tend to breed on islands all over the world.


Magnificent frigatebirds:

The magnificent frigatebird is a giant species with an enormous bill and pouch.

The adult males have a length of forty-five inches and a scarlet pouch. The ladybirds have a white chest and shoulders. Their scientific name is ” Fregata magnificens.

Most taxonomists believe that frigate birds belong to the order “Pelecaniformes,” but another theory states that they should be grouped with Anhingas, Boobies, and Gannets.

They are majorly found in the Atlantic, Florida, Galapagos Islands, and islands of Cape Verde.

The fantastic thing about this bird is that it does not need too much food for its survival. In the wild, they are also seen chasing the blue-foot boobies. Unfortunately, as they are prone to stress, and anxious booby bird usually gets panicked and ultimately vomits, and so they become a feast for the magnificent frigatebirds.

Ascension Frigatebird:

The scientific name for this species is “Fregata aquila”. Though they are small in size, they appear very similar to the magnificent ones. Ladies of this ascension frigatebirds are blackish to brown with a rust-colored cape.

They do not have white patches like other species. So if you spot any lady with a white patch, it means she has not acquired her full plumage yet and is breeding.

Christmas Frigatebird:

The scientific name for this species is “Fregata andrewsi.” This species only have the males that do exhibit white egg-shaped patches on their bellies. Its bill is more prominent than his comparative ‘great frigatebird.’


The ladies of this species have brown plumage with white chests and bellies and a white patch around the neck. They only breed on Christmas Island that is situated on the Eastern Indian Ocean.

Great Frigatebird:

The scientific name for this species is “Fregata minor.” Great Frigatebirds are large, lightweight seabirds that are huge, almost one-hundred and five centimeters in length. Both genders have an overall black plumage. Female frigatebirds are slightly larger than male frigatebirds.

As the sex is distinguishable, so they exhibit the phenomenon of “Sexual dimorphism.” Female has a white throat pouch and breast whereas, on the other hand, the males have red throat pouches.


The males have a very distinctive plumage as they have a unique green sheen to their feathers. Some of the males also have a purple glow in their feathers. The species mainly rely on the fish which they usually catch while flying and diving in the seawaters. However, they are traditionally flight birds.

They also tend to hover around the fishing boats, and it also follows pelicans as they usually do not like to hunt for their food. Instead, they look for the leftovers. The nesting colonies generally tend to breed closer to each other.

When breeding begins, the perched males exhibit courtship, and as they do so, they inflate their throat pouch, which turns bright red and looks like a red balloon.

Lesser frigatebirds:

Lesser frigatebird has the scientific name of “Fregata ariel.” Among all the species, these are the smallest. Their length is around thirty inches. The males have black plumage with a metallic green sheen. Their plumage is also glossy as compared to the other species.


The ladies also exhibit a dark brown plumage and have light-colored bars on their wings. In addition, the bellies and the neck area are white while the head is black.

In Galapagos Islands:

The frigate bird is majorly found in the coastal areas of America, particularly in the Galapagos Islands. Two species are local to Galapagos islands:

  • Magnificent frigatebird
  • Great Frigatebird


Great frigatebirds are also present, along with the Galapagos Islands and the Indian ocean. These species are shy from the competition, and therefore they tend to fly far across the seas in search of food.

Frigatebird Maturity:

The magnificent frigatebirds can acquire maturity and full adult plumage at eight to nine years. On the other hand, ladies may take more time of about ten to eleven years. After that, they are capable of mating and breeding with their full plumage.

Great Frigatebird facts:

The name Magnificent Frigatebird truly fits on them. This unusual aerial creature can make anyone stare at it due to its remarkable features and characters. They make an impact on you far from the sky. They have shiny black plumage, massive in size, and females flying overhead can look breathtaking. Let’s talk about some facts about this fantastic creature:

Origin and location:

They can be commonly observed in the Indian Ocean along the pacific ocean and on the Galapagos islands as they do not tend to fight. However, they also soar over the subtropical oceans of America. They fly far across the sea to find food where there are no competitors.

The Galápagos Islands also give space to these birds, but frigatebirds on this island are distinctive based on genetics and morphology. All species lay only one egg.


These birds have incredible plumage with scapular feathers that have a green or sometimes purple sheen in them. In addition, lady frigatebirds have distinctive eyes than the males as they have the “blue eye-ring” and white breast and shoulders.


The diet of these birds is not so complicated. They rely on small fish, medium-sized fish, seabird chicks jellyfish, small squids, and other crustaceans like crabs. They are experts in stealing food and eating regurgitated food.

Waterproof or not?

As compared to other seabirds, which have waterproof plumage, these birds are not fully waterproof. They also have tiny legs with webbed feet.

Mano warbird:

These birds are famous as “mano warbirds” because they usually chase small blue-booby birds and harass them until to the point where these birds have to drop their food. These birds grasp the tail feathers of the booby birds to make them anxious.

Then, frigatebirds catch the regurgitated food when it is in the air. Besides, booby birds also chase other species of birds like tropical birds and some other seabirds.

Conservation status:

The conservation status of this bird is satisfactory. They come under the category of “Least Concern.” In 1815 some locals introduced feral cats to Christmas island, which caused a significant decrease in the number of these birds. During World War II, these birds suffered a lot as their habitats were utterly destroyed.

These birds usually look for remote islands for mating and breeding purposes. Apart from that, a lot of phosphate mining took place during these times, which resulted in dust pollution that decreased their numbers.


These birds fly over the oceans with their wings spread out in the air. However, though they are seabirds, they rarely flap wings. But, when it’s needed, they do flap them in slow and deeper wingbeats.


During the mating season, the male inflates his balloon and indicates that he is ready to roll. This balloon attracts the girls so that this courtship can last from six months to a whole year.


Frigatebird usually builds its nest in low trees, sometimes in a bush, and even on the bare ground when no other option is available. They lay only a single egg which they nurture mutually. The lady builds the nest, and both of them feed the young one. One parent always stays with the baby for protection.

When the chick is almost twelve years old, the male leaves, and now the female takes responsibility.

The magnificent frigatebird is distinctive from the other five species as they do not have the “white axillary spur” to their plumage; instead, they exhibit a purple sheen.

What is a frigate bird?

It is a vast tropical sea bird with a black or brown colored plumage. They are predatory and often grab and steal from smaller birds like blue-footed booby birds and other seabirds.

What does a Frigatebird look like?

Magnificent Frigatebirds are generally black in color and enormous in size. They are famous seagulls as they hover over the fishing boats in search of food. However, female frigatebirds and young birds are not black. Instead, they may have hints of white on their chests and bellies.

What do Frigatebird eat?

Frigatebirds usually rely on small fish like brook trout, rainbow trout, etc. In addition to that, they also munch upon the squid fish, jellyfish, and other shelled sea creatures.

Where do Frigatebird live?

They live along with the coastal islands of tropical and subtropical oceans and Galapagos islands. They nest on the Mangrove cays present along the coral reefs. They breed and mate in large pairs of colonies, and hence they also build their nest in trees, shrubs, etc.

The nest can also be made on the ground if they cannot find any vegetation. The building and security of the nest are the responsibility of both parents.

What is the conservation status?

The conservation status of these birds is under the category of “Least Concern.” This is because all species have enough population on relative islands, and the breeding rate and population are not affecting too much.

Is the magnificent frigatebird endangered?

Out of the five species, only two are endangered, including the Christmas and ascension frigatebirds. On the other hand, the magnificent frigatebird is not currently endangered.

Why are they called frigatebirds?

The name for these is derived from the French mariners after the specie “La Frégate.” Therefore, they are very aggressive, so they are named after the warships of the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.

What is genus Fregata? 

Genus Fregata is the scientific name for these birds.

What is birdlife international?

It is a global partnership of organizations that do not come under the government, and they work for the betterment and the conservation of aerial life all over the world.

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