Family: (Fregatidae) Frigatebirds
Preferred Habitat: Offshore.
Seasonal Occurrence: Common in summer. Uncommon spring and fall.
Profile by Vicki Stittleburg: With its huge size, long pointed wings, and long deeply forked tail, the Magnificent Frigatebird is instantly recognizable even at long distances. The bird has a 7.5 foot wingspan; relative to its body weight, the Magnificent Frigatebird has the largest wing surface area of any bird alive. Males and females look strikingly different; males have glossy, black plumage with an inflatable red throat patch and females have blackish brown plumage with a white breast. Juvenile birds resemble adult females but have a variable amount of white on their head and breast.
Frigatebirds mostly feed on fish but will occasionally consume jellyfish and crustaceans. Though capable of swooping down and snatching prey from the water's surface, the Magnificent Frigatebird will often steal prey from other birds. A gull, tern, shorebird, or other bird carrying food is harassed in mid-flight until it drops or regurgitates its meal. Once the food is dropped, the frigatebird swoops down to snatch the falling item before it hits the water or ground. Magnificent Frigatebirds can even take food directly from the bill of another bird in an aerial battle. Because of their swift, soaring flight and marauding behavior, Magnificent Frigatebirds were named after British frigate warships.
Magnificent Frigatebirds are common in the summer and are usually spotted close to the coast. Look for them soaring in the air at the Bolivar Ferry crossing or roosting on pilings in Galveston Bay.