Galapagos Magnificent Frigatebird Facts

Name: Magnificent Frigatebird
Family: Fregatidae
Scientific name: Fregata Magnificens
Length: 89–114 cm (35–45 in) wingspan of 2.17–2.44 m (7.1–8.0 ft.)
Weight: 1.1–1.59 kilograms (2.4–3.5 lb)

Category: Sea Birds
Number of Species: 47
Endemic Species: 13

In total, 47 species of sea birds have been recorded in the Galapagos, 19 of which are resident to the Islands. The sea birds therefore account for nearly one third of all the species ever recorded in the islands and about the same proportion of the resident species.

Seabirds can be conveniently divided into 12 groups, as show in the table below. This shows the number of species recorded in each group and summarizes their status. If also shows the number of endemic species and the number of other species which are represented by endemic subspecies. Species are treated as migrants if they occur annually, vagrants being those recorded less frequently.

Endemic Subspecies: Magnificent Frigatebird
Frigatebirds are large, dark seabirds with very long, pointed wings which are held forward from the shoulder in flight. They have deeply forked tails and short legs with webbed feet. Their bills are long and hook-tipped. Frigatebirds soar high over the sea and feed by harassing and kleptoparasiting other seabirds, particularly boobies, or by picking food from the surface of the sea. However, they never land on water as they lack the oil-secreting gland which keeps the feathers of seabirds dry. The male, female and immature plumages are distinctly different and breeding males have a bright red gular pouch which is inflated during display.

Specific Description:
Resident of Galapagos, endemic subspecies magnificens. Population is estimated at 1000 pairs in about 12 colonies. Breeds throughout the year.

A large, dark, long-winged seabird with rakish flight and long, deeply forked tail. Slightly larger than very similar Great Frigatebird which is the only likely confusion species. ADULT MALE: Wholly black (apart from red gular sac); purplish sheen to mantle feathers, and black or brown legs and feet. In flight it is very difficult to distinguish from the Great Frigatebird, although it usually lacks the pale bar across the upperwing which is typical of Great Frigatebirds. ADULT FEMALE: Similar to male but breast is white. Can be distinguished by blue eye-ring. In flight it is very similar to Great Frigatebird but can be distinguished by the white breast and black throat and thin white lines on axillaries. JUVENILE: Resembles female but the head as well as breast are white.

Since birds do not reach maturity until their fourth year, gradually developing adult plumage during this period, a series of intermediate plumages occur, often making specific identification difficult. Immature birds do, however, often show some thin white lines on the axillaries.

Silent at sea, but male makes a drawn-out "oo-oo-oo…" sound when displaying at the breeding colony.

Generally feeds close inshore, mainly by kleptoparasiting passing seabirds, particularly Blue-footed Boobies. When displaying, males inflate their bright red gular sac like a balloon and call to attract females, at the same time vibrating their outstretched wings.

Magnificent Frigatebird