Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird

Man O'War

Fregata magnificens
Population size
100-500 thou
Life Span
15-25 yrs
15 km/h
1-1.6 kg
89-114 cm
217-244 cm

The Magnificent frigatebird is a large, lightly built seabird with brownish-black plumage, long narrow wings and a deeply forked tail. The male has a striking red gular sac which it inflates to attract a mate. The female is slightly larger than the male and has a white breast and belly. Knowing for their interesting feeding behavior, frigatebirds take fish in flight from the ocean's surface (often flying fish), and sometimes indulge in kleptoparasitism, harassing other birds to force them to regurgitate their food.


Magnificent frigatebirds occur over tropical and subtropical waters off America, between northern Mexico and Ecuador on the Pacific coast and between Florida and southern Brazil along the Atlantic coast. There are also populations on the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific and the Cape Verde islands in the Atlantic. These birds are found along coasts, islands and over lagoons. They nest on small islands with dense growth, in mangroves, in low trees or bushes, and on coral reefs.

Magnificent Frigatebird habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Magnificent frigatebirds are diurnal seabirds and spend most of their time soaring over the ocean, searching for food. They are graceful and agile in flight but very clumsy on land. Due to their small feet along with short legs these birds can barely walk on the ground. Magnificent frigatebirds are unable to land on the water as their feathers are not waterproof. They are masters to use different methods to catch their prey without getting wet. These acrobatic hunters don't swim or dive; they are able to catch flyingfishes or squids right in the air when they leap out from the water. Magnificent frigatebirds are also well-known for stealing prey from other birds. They harass other seabirds to force them to disgorge their meals. After forcing the other seabird to regurgitate its meal, they will dive and catch the prey before it hits the surface of the water. Magnificent frigatebirds are gregarious but often fly singly. On land, they perch in low trees and shrubs or often spend time sunning themselves holding up their wings towards the sky. Magnificent frigatebirds are usually silent in flight, but make various rattling sounds when near the nests.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Magnificent frigatebirds are carnivores (piscivores) and feed mainly on fish, squid, jellyfish, and crustaceans. They will also take turtles, eggs, and chicks of other sea birds.

Mating Habits

50-60 days
11 months
1 egg

Magnificent frigatebirds are serially monogamous and form pairs each breeding season. Males mate every breeding season and females breed every other year. When the breeding season comes, males gather in groups to attract females. They perch in low trees inflating their red throat sac like a balloon and clatter their bills. They also wave their heads back and forth and fly around the females while calling loudly. Magnificent frigatebirds nest in colonies. Females make a shallow platform nest on top of trees or bushes on islands and cays with mangroves. The nest is constructed out of branches and twigs. The female lays one clear white egg that measures 68 by 47 millimeters (2.7 by 1.9 in) on average. This egg is incubated by both parents for 50 to 60 days. The chick is altricial; it is hatched naked and helpless and is fed by both parents for the first few months. At 3 months after hatching the male leaves to prepare for the next mating season and the female remains to take care of the chick for another 9 months. The young is usually able to fly 4 to 6 months after hatching.


Population threats

Magnificent frigatebirds are not threatened globally. However, these birds do suffer from human disturbances in nesting areas, habitat loss, the introduction of non-native predators and pollution.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Magnificent frigatebird is approximately 100,000-499,999 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.

Ecological niche

Due to their feeding habits, Magnificent frigatebirds control populations of their fish prey, especially flying fish, crustaceans, and squid.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Magnificent frigatebirds spend days and night on the wing, with an average ground speed of 10 km/h (6.2 mph), covering up to 223 km (139 mi) before landing. The only other bird known to spend days and nights on the wing is the Common swift.
  • It is believed that Magnificent frigatebirds are closely related to Pelicans.
  • Magnificent frigatebirds can't land on the water; if their feathers get wet these birds won't be able to fly.
  • The Magnificent frigatebird is also known as the pirate bird or condor of the oceans.
  • Magnificent frigatebirds are very strong fliers and are able to ride out even a hurricane's strong winds.


1. Magnificent Frigatebird on Wikipedia -
2. Magnificent Frigatebird on The IUCN Red List site -

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