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Magnificent Frigatebird - BirdForum Opus

Revision as of 19:28, 31 May 2023 by KeithDickinson-10828 (talk | contribs) (→‎External Links: removed BFTV link)
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Female (above) and Male in mating display
Photo © by Ian Jeanneret
Santa Cruz, Galapagos, Ecuador
Fregata magnificens


Adult male, Adult female, Immature male, Juvenile
Photo © by DABS
La Brea, Trinidad, March 2018
Photo © by STEFFRO1
Fernandina, Galapagos Islands, August 2015
  • Length: 35–44.9 in or 89–114 cm
  • Wingspan: 85.4–88.2 in (about 7 feet) or 217–224 cm

Females significantly larger than males, and Caribbean populations generally a little larger than more westerly populations. Both sexes and all age-groups have:

  • Long, hooked bill
  • Mostly black plumage
  • Long pointed wings with characteristic profile
  • Long, deeply forked tail often held closed


  • All black with purple gloss
  • Scarlet throat pouch that can be inflated during mating displays


  • Black head and back
  • White breast does not reach anywhere near the bill
  • Brown band on wings
  • Inconspicuous blue eye ring

Immature White head and underparts, rest of bird black

Similar species

On a sitting female, black on the chin and throat makes a dark arrow pointing into the white breast, and on a flying bird, the border seems perpendicular to the flight direction. On a female Great Frigatebird, the white breast points into the black, almost reaching the bill. Up close, look for different color of eye ring
Adult male has different color gloss on mantle when seen up close, and lacks the paler line on upper wing usually seen on Great Frigatebird. If visible, leg color should be diagnostic.
Juvenile Great Frigatebird is usually yellow/orange/tawny on head and upper breast, but the lack of that is not a completely safe field mark for Magnificent.


United States; western Mexico; Central America; the Caribbean; northern South America to Brazil in the east and to Ecuador and Galapagos in the west; and on Cape Verde Islands.



Two subspecies are recognized[1].


Pelagic species; at sea, and commonly along coastlines. Is not bothered by human settlement, and may benefit from human activities such as fishing and fish cleaning.



Diet includes fish, especially flying fish, which are taken in flight. Will attack other seabirds to steal their catches or try to force them to disgorge their meals. Will also snatch offal, such as fish entrails discarded by fishermen, from the surface of the sea.


The male attends the nest for about 100 days, while the female stays with the single offspring for approximately another year; most of that time, the young stay in the nest. The female is therefore only able to breed every other year, while males may breed every year or maybe even more often in different colonies.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Audubon Guides
  3. BBC Nature

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1