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Magnificent Frigatebird

Fregata magnificens

Length: 40 inches Wingspan: 90 inches Seasonality: Extremely Rare Visitor
ID Keys: Extremely long, pointed wings for body size, forked tail (usually closed in flight, very long bill, all black (adults)

Magnificent Frigatebird - Fregata magnificensThe Magnificent Frigatebird is characterized by extremely long, pointed wings, the longest wings for any bird in comparison to overall body weight.  They are most commonly seen soaring, dipping down close to the water's surface to pick up food items, but never landing or swimming in the water.  They are primarily a coastal species, but on occasion can be found inland.  The male has a dramatic thraot sac which is inflated during mating display (see photo to the right). The species is considered "hypothetical" in South Dakota, given that rare inland sightings have occurred in nearby states.

Habitat: Typically found along the coastline, or less often further out to sea.  They can also rarely be found over inland water bodies.

Diet: Primarily feeds on fish, as well as jellyfish, squid, crustaceans, young birds, eggs, and young vertebrates.

Behavior: Spends most of it's time putting it's long wings to good use, soaring in flight, dipping down to the surface of the water to grab food items.  Even when feeding over land, it will typically grab items in flight rather than land.

Nesting:  Usually nests in coastal bushes or trees, often mangroves.

Breeding Map: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Usually silent, except when on their breeding grounds.  Males in display (such as photo above) give some repeated chattering sounds, along with bill clicking sounds.

Migration: Not typically migratory, although individual birds will wander widely. Birds found wandering far from breeding colonies are typically dispersing juveniles.  They are almost always found in warmer waters.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Magnificent Frigatebird sightings

Similar Species: Great Frigatebird (a very rare visitor to North America)

Conservation Status: Numbers seem to be stable or increasing, with breeding on the Florida Keys not confirmed until the 1960s. 

Further Information: 1) Audubon Guide - Magnificent Frigatebird

2) Magnificent Frigatebird

3) USGS Patuxent: Magnificent Frigatebird

Photo Information: June 2015 - U.S. Virgin Island (St. John's) - Terry Sohl


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Magnificent Frigatebird - Ragne Map
South Dakota Status: Status in South Dakota is "hypothetical", with no confirmed sightings, but they have been sighted in far inland in the United States, including in nearby states.

Additional Magnificent Frigatebirds Photos
 Magnificent Frigatebird - Fregata magnificensMagnificent Frigatebird - Fregata magnificensMagnificent Frigatebird - Fregata magnificens