Frigatebirds are more than just a big Red Balloon. They are amongst the most photographed birds in Galapagos.
These Galapagos birds are also known as "Man o' War".
They are sea birds of the order Pelicaniformes (it includes five species in total) and two species are found in the Galapagos Islands:
The Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) and the Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor). They are big sea birds, with abundant population, and of tropical distribution.
The great frigatebird has the greater world-wide distribution, and can be found throughout the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans.
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The Magnificent Frigatebird can be seen in the Caribbean and on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the American Continent.
The Galapagos Magnificent frigatebirds is an endemic subspecies. You can see the two species nesting on the Islands of: North Seymour, Floreana, Isabela, Genovesa and also on the surface of a fresh water lake called El Junco, on San Cristobal Island.
The Great frigatebirds are harder to spot because they tend to fly away much farther out at sea, while the Magnificent tends to fly above the Islands and thus easier to see.
Even though these birds belong to a group characterized for their always water-resistant plumage, these Galapagos Birds are not completely water proof.
They are masters of aerial maneuvers, fast flight and in some cases kleptomania! Great Frigate birds steal from other frigates, as well as other species, like red-footed boobies and tropic birds.
They also steal nesting materials as well. It doesn't matter how they feed, what counts is that they survive.
This skill in flight allows then to pluck small fish from the very surface of the water, dipping only the bill into the sea or even preying on flying fish in their mid-flight.
Their wingspan is around 7.5 feet and their deeply forked scissor-like tails afford them ultimate maneuverability, and their overall length is about a meter.
Since the natural world lacks the value of ethics, stealing allows them to continue in this world. And, if they survive, they will reproduce.
Frigatebird reproduction is one of those amazing examples of animal behavior to observe in Galapagos Islands.
Males start off everything with a very basic flat surface (half guano, half twigs), while hormonal changes will produce color changes, like the impressive scarlet red gular pouch.
The pouch becomes fully inflated, and it represents about 40% of the bird's volume.
Females select males by combining two visual features: nest and pouch (you guessed it right: the bigger, the better). They will produce just one egg, and their reproduction is every other year, since it takes a year-and-a-half to rear that single chick.
It has one of the longest periods of immaturity of all birds, and it may be another half a year before the chick is able to fly.
Even then, immature may be dependent on its parents for food for over a year, and full sexual maturity is not reached for five years.
Perhaps, this bird is the most photographed bird in Galapagos, and certainly the one that has the most elaborate courtship ritual. The two species of frigatebird are very similar to one another, the males are the most difficult to distinguish.
The call is one of two ways to distinguish the males of the two species from each other. Great frigatebirds make a gobbling sound, not unlike a turkey, while Magnificent frigatebirds make a drumming sound.
The other way to distinguish the nearly identical males is to look at the scapular feathers, long feathers that cover their shoulders.
Although the feathers are black, they are iridescent and produce different colors when they refract sunlight. In Magnificent frigatebirds the iridescence is purple while in Great frigatebirds it is green.
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