Great Frigatebird is a large seabird of the tropical oceans, where they are
primarily found in the Pacific and Indian ocean basins. They are only rare
vagrants near the continental United States, with a handful of records off
the California coast, and one very lost bird found in Oklahoma. They
do have breeding colonies on the Hawaiian Islands, however, and breeding
colonies off the Pacific coast of Mexico. The birds are glossy black
overall, but males are smaller than females, and have an impressive red chin
sac they inflate during breeding. They are sometimes called "Iwa" in
the Hawaiian Island chain.
Habitat: Found on a number of breeding colonies in
the tropical, warm waters of the Pacific and
Indian oceans, with a very restricted breeding range of a couple of islands
off the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic ocean. There, they nest in
bushes or mangroves, or more rarely, on the ground.
Diet: Feeds mostly on fish and squid, but also is
known for taking chicks of other nesting birds, and will also occasionally
take other marine creatures.
Behavior: Most often feeds by flying above the
water's surface and when prey is spotted, dropping down to grab it in
flight. They will also occasionally harass other seabirds that have
caught prey in attempts to force them to drop it. In some areas and in
some seasons, preys heavily on chicks in nesting colonies of other seabirds.
Nesting: A platform nest is built of sticks
and other vegetation and placed in shrubs or in a mangrove. The female
lays a single egg, and both the female and male will help to incubate it.
Both parents tend to the young after hatching. Nesting for a female
occurs every other year, as the fledgling typically stays with the parent
for up to a year and a half after hatching. Pair bonds are not usually
maintained for the long term, and males may mate with different females each
Song: The vagrant birds found in North America are
usually silent, as the species typically makes few vocalizations away from
their breeding colonies. At breeding colonies, males make bill
snapping sounds as they display with their inflated red air sacs.
Migration: Great Frigatebirds can be found across
the warmer waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans, with much smaller
numbers in the Atlantic. However, adult birds tend to stay close to
breeding colonies, and birds spotted away from breeding colonies are
primarily juvenile birds, with much smaller numbers of non-breeding adults.
Conservation Status: The Great Frigatebird seems
to be declining in population, but they are still a widespread species and
are relatively common in parts of their range.
IUCN lists the Great Frigatebird as a species of "Least Concern".