Sunday, 10 February 2013

Magnificent Frigatebird - An National Bird of Antigua and Barbuda

The Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) was sometimes previously known as Man O'War or Man of War, reflecting its rakish lines, speed, and aerial piracy of other birdsIt is widespread in the tropical Atlantic, breeding colonially in trees in Florida, the Caribbean and Cape Verde Islands. It also breeds along the Pacificcoast of the Americas from Mexico to Ecuador including the Gal├ípagos IslandsIt has occurred as a vagrant as far from its normal range as the Isle of Man, Denmark, Spain, England, and British Columbia.

Interesting Facts about Magnificent Frigatebird are:

  1. This species is very similar to the other frigatebirds and is similarly sized to all but the Lesser Frigatebird. However, it lacks a white axillary spur, and juveniles show a distinctive diamond-shaped belly patch.
  2. The Magnificent Frigatebird is silent in flight, but makes various rattling sounds at its nest.
  3. Male magnificent frigatebirds are entirely black except for brown inner secondaries on the upper wing and the presence of a red inflatable throat pouch called a gular sac.
  4. They also have faint purple gloss on the head and green on the neck, scapulars, and upper wing.
  5. Their legs and feet appear back or grayish. Females are also entirely black with a white chest and white and tan markings on the wings. 
  6. Females are, in general, 15% larger than males. 
  7. Immature magnificent frigatebirds have a white head and chest while the rest of the body is black. Their legs, feet, and bill are light-bluish gray.
  8. Their large heads, long, pointed, narrow wings, and forked tails make them easy to distinguish even from a distance. 
  9. They are most often seen soaring along coastlines at higher altitudes and their silhouette is readily recognizable. 
  10. They are also recognizable by their large size and long, hooked bill. They have short legs and small feet not well-suited to walking or swimming.
  11. The Magnificent Frigatebird often nests in mangroves, but also in bushes and even on cactus. 
  12.  It can breed on the ground.
  13. It feeds mainly on flying-fish and squid, but also jellyfish, baby turtles, seabird eggs and chicks, offal and fish scraps.
  14. Magnificent frigatebirds usually build their nests out of twigs on or around low-lying vegetation. Males gather twigs and other nest building materials while females remain at the males' display site and build the nest there. 
  15. Nests are flat or slightly hollow with a diameter of 25 - 35 cm. They are usually fully exposed to the sun for the birds' sunning habits.
  16. Their diet can greatly vary due to food availability and preferred hunting technique. The three main hunting techniques are dipping, kleptoparasitism, and opportunistic feeding.

Note: They are only able to dip about 15 cm deep to avoid getting their feathers wet. Kleptoparasitism, the stealing of another animal’s food, is how this species gets one of their nicknames, "Man-'o-War".

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