Beach Birds, Birdwatching Information

Frigatebird FAQ

To start with, here are some interesting facts about the frigatebird…

  • Seasonal monogamous
  • Frigatebird family of birds is called Fregatidae
  • Nests colonially
  • pelagic piscivores (obtain most food on the wing)
  • Christopher Columbus in 1492 called them “forktails”
  • Stays in the air up for 12 days without landing
  • Rides the air thermals
  • Can live 45+ years
  • French sailors named it after the fast moving warship
  • Awkward on land
  • Not found in the Arctic
  • Steal food from other flying birds like Boobies
  • Can soar for about a week without landing
  • They will roost on posts, tall trees, and rocky cliffs to sleep

20 Questions about the Frigatebird

1.  Are frigatebirds endangered?

The Christmas Island frigatebird of the South Pacific, is listed as critically endangered because approximately 25% of their breeding area was cleared for phosphate mining before 1946.  Many breeding colonies were deserted due to dust fall-out from the mine.


2.  What do babies look like?

Frigatebird parents have one baby bird at a time and it is born naked and kept warm by both parents for 55 days.  Soon after, it develops soft white feathers.  The parents feed the baby for 6 months and protect this baby for 6 weeks at least.

3.  Why are frigatebirds red?

Male frigatebirds are most commonly known for their red throat pouch, which are inflated to attract female frigatebirds during the mating season.

4.  How big are frigatebirds?

Frigatebirds are about the size of a chicken and have extremely long, slender wings, spanning to about 2.3 metres (nearly 8 feet), and a long, deeply forked tail.   They are close to 100 cm in height and weigh almost 2 kg.  They have the largest wingspan in comparison to it’s body of any bird species in the world which makes them great at soaring.

5.  Can frigatebirds get wet?

They have a diet that consists of marine animals and so they have to pluck their prey from the water without landing as they are unable to take-off from a flat surface such as water and they can’t swim.


6.  Where can frigatebirds be found?

It breeds mostly south of the United States, but wanders northward along the coasts during non breeding season.  They love the tropical coasts, such as the West Coast of Mexico, near Puerto Vallarta, and any island situated in tropical waters.  You would never find a frigatebird in the Arctic.

7.  How long can frigatebirds fly?

The frigatebird spends the majority of its life in the air.  Frigate birds have been known to stay in the air for nearly a whole week and only land on the rocky cliffs to breed or to rest.

8.  How did frigate birds get their name?

French mariners’ referred to the frigatebird as “la frégate” which is translated as a frigate or fast and powerful warship.

9.  Do frigatebirds sleep?

The frigatebird usually keeps within 100 miles (160 km) of land, because it only roosts to sleep, usually high up on a street lamp.  It breeds in crowded colonies on islands.  Both parents incubate the single white egg.

10.  Do frigatebirds migrate?

They do not migrate but wander extensively when not breeding.

11.  Do frigatebirds mate for life?

The male frigatebird abandons its mate and half-grown chick and leaves the breeding colony, presumably to molt and returns for another breeding attempt with a different mate. T he female cares for the young for over a year. Thus, the male can breed each year, while the female breeds only every other year.

12.  What do frigatebirds eat?

This bird will eat almost anything but it prefers to snatch food off the surface of the ocean and steal food from other birds such as fish, squid, turtles, crabs, and jellyfish.  Maybe a bird will drop a piece of food in flight, and the frigate bird will swoop in and catch the tasty morsel in mid air and take it out to sea to eat it.

13.  Where do frigatebirds live?

They live in the southern US such as the Florida Keys and into South America, along the Brazilian and Peruvian coasts.  They are not found in the Caribbean Sea.

14.  When do frigatebirds mate?

From August to October, a spectacular courtship display occurs for the frigatebirds.  The magnificent male frigatebirds sit in varying size groups, red throat sacs inflated, clattering their bills, waving their heads back and forth, quivering their wings, and calling to females flying overhead.

15.  How do frigatebirds protect themselves?

Frigatebirds can fly very high if necessary and that keeps most of their enemies at bay.  They rarely land so this lack of staying still keeps them safe.  They can fly very quickly and they are a big bird to scare away smaller animals.  They have a hooked beak for tearing food aways from others and also used as a weapon in an emergency.

16.  What does frigate mean?

The word frigate means lofty, heavily armed and very fast moving.

17.  What does a frigatebird look like?

All frigatebirds have predominantly wide black plumage, long, deeply forked tails, and long hooked bills, with a white or red breast.

18.  Why does the frigatebird expand its pouch?

The male’s pouch is red and he expands it to impress the “ladies”.  They might think that he is strong and can make great babies.

19.  What does a frigatebird sound like?

20.  How many different kinds of frigatebirds are there?

There are 5 different species of frigatebirds … Magnificent/Ascension/Christmas/Great/Lesser

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Frigatebird FAQ
Article Name
Frigatebird FAQ
This page answers some of the most commonly asked questions about frigatebirds and shows videos of them doing various things.
Publisher Name
Beach Baby
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