Once upon a time sailors sailing in hot countries could understand without instruments that they had reached the tropics. It was enough to see a bird beautifully floating in the air, which was called the "sea eagle" or "son of the sun." It was known that this bird is a harbinger of a hot tropical belt.
He was frigate, a seabird, able to maneuver in the sky as easily as a ship of the same name on the open sea. Frigates are birds that have been allocated to a separate family by their name. They live near ponds in hot countries. In temperate latitudes it is possible to meet him in exceptional cases.
Description and Features
The frigates have a slightly thin body, a powerful neck, a small head and an elongated beak, which is crooked at the end. The wings are very long and very pointed, the tail is also long, with deep bifurcation.
The plumage of adult birds is brownish-coal, on the back, chest, head and sides, the plumage has a steel luster, sometimes intricately shimmering in blue, green or purple. Males have red leather goiter bags up to 25 cm in diameter. Females have a white throat.
These feathered virtuoso flyers, many consider them the most agile seabirds capable of overtaking a swallow or seagull. On land, they move awkwardly due to disproportionately short legs. For this reason, they practically do not land.
Frigates also cannot take off from the ground, their wings are not adapted for this. They only sit on trees. And from there, the birds, immediately spreading their wings wide, fall into the arms of the air stream. Sitting on trees, they use wings and tail to balance.
Frigate in the photo looks most spectacular during the flight. It floats very beautifully through the air, like across a vast ocean. Although some successful photographers masterfully captured this bird at the time of courtship games. An unusual scarlet bag near the male’s throat is greatly inflated, and very interesting pictures are also obtained.
Before moving on to the story of the different types of frigate, we make general comments. All birds bearing this name have long wings, a forked tail and a beak with a curved end. The main differences in their habitat and size.
The genus of frigates includes 5 species.
1. Big frigate (Fregata minor), settled on the islands of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans in the tropical zone. It is large, body length from 85 to 105 cm, wingspan of about 2.1-2.3 m. It nests in large colonies, tries to stay away from land outside the breeding season.
It can fly for several days without landing. It has 5 subspecies that are distributed in different parts of all the oceans within the tropical zone: West Indian, Central East Indian, West Central Pacific, Eastern Pacific, South Atlantic.
2. Magnificent frigate (Fregata magnificens), up to 1.1 m long, with a wingspan of 2.3 m. At the same time, it weighs no more than a duck, about 1.5 kg. The feathers are the color of anthracite, in females on the abdomen there is a bright longitudinal spot. Young individuals have light feathers on the head and on the abdomen, and brown-black with beige strokes on the back.
The male has a bright crimson goiter bag. Settled in Central and South America on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, up to Ecuador, the state on whose postage stamp there is an image of this bird.
3. Ascension Frigate (Fregata aquilla) or eagle frigate. It got its name from Ascension Island, where it inhabited until the 19th century. However, then cats and rats practically drove him out of there to his current habitat - Boatswain Island. This is the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean. In length reaches up to 0.9 m.
The wingspan reaches up to 2.2 m. The color is black, male representatives have a greenish tint on their heads. The goiter bag is scarlet, swells at the time of courtship of a friend. And the plumage is dark brown, the chest is red, as is the collar on the throat. Currently, its population is approximately 12,000 individuals.
4. Christmas frigate (Fregata andrewsi). It lives in only one place - on the island of Christmas in the Indian Ocean. Size from 1 m, plumage black with a glimpse of a brown hue. Wings and tail are long, the ends of the first are slightly truncated, in the range they reach 2.3-2.5 m, and the tail has a pronounced bifurcation. It weighs about 1.5 kg. Males have a white spot on their abdomen; the sack at the throat is bright red. Now there are no more than 7200 individuals in nature. Caught on the list of animals that are threatened with extinction.
5. Frigate Ariel (Fregata ariel). Perhaps the smallest of the above representatives. Body length 0.7-0.8 m, wingspan reach 193 cm. An adult bird weighs about 750-950 g, females are larger than males. The color is purely coal in color, but occasionally casts shades of the sea - turquoise, blue and green, sometimes burgundy.
It has three varieties, which slightly differ in the size of the wingspan and the length of the beak: Indian West, Trinidad and the third, living on islands in the central and eastern parts of the Indian Ocean, as well as on islands in the center and west of the Pacific Ocean. This frigate bird can even please even the inhabitants of our Far East with their rare appearance.
Relatives of our feathered can include pelicans and cormorants. In addition to general external signs of similarity and attachment to water, they are in the same niche of seabirds of the copepod order.
1. Pelicans are more widespread, moderate climatic zones are accessible to them. In Russia, there are 2 species - pink and curly pelicans. They also have a leather bag in the throat area, only it is more likely the mandible, and it uses it to catch fish.
2. Cormorants are a genus of seabirds of the pelican family. They are the size of a goose or a duck. The plumage is black with a hint of aqua, some are decorated with white spots on the head and abdomen. They widely mastered the southern and northern marine regions, except for the polar latitudes, as well as wetlands, riverbanks and lakes. The beak at the end is also crocheted. In Russia, 6 species live: large, Japanese, crested, Bering, red-faced and small.
Lifestyle & Habitat
Bird frigate inhabits on the coasts and islands within the tropics. In addition, they can be seen in Polynesia, as well as in the Seychelles and Galapagos Islands, in the territories located in the subtropics. All oceans of the earth, with a tropical and subtropical zone, can boast that they have sheltered this bird on many of their islands and coasts.
Very dexterous in the air, they spend most of their time flying above the sea. They do not know how to swim, plumage immediately absorbs water and pulls them to the bottom. This is due to the fact that the frigates have a very poorly developed coccygeal gland, designed to impregnate feathers with a waterproof composition, like most waterfowl. Therefore, they hone their flying skills to hunt fish.
Feathered for a long time can soar in the sky thanks to its wings. They don’t even have to wave, they just “hang” in the air stream. These living gliders in the air open up sharp and ornate turns, chase each other, play and live there full-fledged life.
Descending to land, they are almost helpless. If they fall into the field of vision of a dangerous enemy, they will not escape on earth. Too short weak legs and too oblong equipment - wings and tail.
Despite some limitations in approaching the land, these birds do not have difficulty in capturing their own prey, they are inventive and skillful hunters. However, do not hesitate to offend other water birds, taking their prey from them. Frigates often also steal material from building their own homes from alien nests.
They usually nest in colonies, which arrange close to nesting gannets or other birds. Such a neighborhood is not an accident, but an insidious forethought. In the future, they will take food from those. They usually live in nests at the time of the mating and hatching of chicks. They try to spend the rest of the time over the sea.
Frigate seabird, therefore, it feeds mainly on fish. At the same time, like any predator, he will not refuse to catch a very small vertebrate, mollusk or jellyfish on occasion. Birds can also snatch a small crustacean out of the water without landing on the surface. They watch dolphins and predatory fish from the air for a long time when they chase flying fish. As soon as the last come out of the water, frigates catch them on the fly.
The hunter can repeatedly drop the caught prey, but then he always grabs it again before it touches the water. This is done to capture the victim more adroitly. Thus, at the time of the hunt, he performs complex balancing act, like a real circus artist.
On land, they attack small turtles that have recently hatched. However, such a feast does not happen often. Therefore, cunning birds have mastered the profession of "pirates." They catch other birds that return from a successful hunt and attack them.
They begin to beat them with wings, hollow their beaks until the unfortunate release their victim or burp. Robbers even manage to grab these pieces of food on the fly. They attack large birds in whole groups.
They can steal and eat the chick from the nest of another bird, simultaneously destroying this nest. In other words, they act like "air gangsters." In addition, they pick up from the sea surface not only small mollusks, jellyfish or crustaceans, but also pieces fell.
Reproduction and longevity
Monogamous bird frigates choose a partner once for life. At the time of reproduction and hatching, they are not in the usual air territory, therefore they are very vulnerable. Understanding this, they nest on deserted coasts or islands, where there are no predators.
Male applicants are the first to arrive at the nesting place, perch on trees and begin to hilariously inflate their goiter bags, making throaty sounds that attract the female. The leather bag becomes so large that the boyfriend has to lift his head high. And future friends fly above them and choose a mate from above.
This can last several days. In the end, the females choose a partner with the largest throat sac. It is this subject that serves as an element of the bond of marriage. Whose bag the windy female will rub, he will be the chosen one. In fact, it captures the choice of a partner with this gentle movement. Only after that they arrange a place for the future hatching of chicks.
The nest is equipped on tree branches next to water. Shrubs or elevations on the ground can be chosen for the nest, but much less often. The future egg laying place resembles a platform; it is built from branches, twigs, leaves and other plant elements. A clutch usually has one egg, although there are observations that some species of frigates lay up to 3 eggs.
Parents hatch offspring alternately, changing after 3, 6 or more days. The chicks hatch after six or seven weeks completely naked. They are heated by one of the parents. Later they appear white fluff. Full plumage they acquire only five months later.
Parents feed babies for a long time. Even after the chicks grow up and begin to fly on their own, adult birds continue to feed them. They become sexually mature at 5-7 years. In the wild, a frigate bird can live 25-29 years.
- It is possible that they called the bird a frigate because of the formidable glory of this ship. Frigates are warships, and in Mediterranean countries, conquering corsairs often attacked frigates attacking other ships for profit. Just like our "air pirate." Although it seems to us that the ships of the frigates have another remarkable quality - they could cruise for a long time at sea without entering the port. They were not joked in peacetime, but were used for patrol and cruising services. This long stay in the sea is inherent in our wonderful bird.
- Today, Polynesians still use frigates as carrier pigeons to send messages. Moreover, it is not difficult to tame them, despite a slightly absurd character. The key is feeding fish. For her they are ready for much.
- Frigates have a well-developed vision. From a height they notice the smallest fish, jellyfish or crustacean that have inadvertently risen to the surface, and dive at them.
- Vibrant colors act strangely on frigate birds. There were cases when they came across motley pennant flags on ships from all over, apparently taking them for potential prey.
- On the island of Noire in Oceania, locals use tamed frigates as "live fishing rods." Birds fish, bring ashore and dump people.