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(Fregata magnificens)

Beachgoers delight in this large, black pterodactyl-like bird that soars effortlessly on tropical breezes with hardly a flap, using its deeply forked tail to steer. Watching a Magnificent Frigatebird float in the air truly is, as the name implies, magnificent. These master aerialists are also pirates of the sky, stealing food from other birds in midair. Males have a bright red pouch on the throat, which they inflate like a balloon to attract females. Females unlike most other seabirds look different than males with their white chest.

01 - LoRes - Fragatas - Fregata magnificens - Isla Contoy

Fregata magnificens

Order: Suliformes
Family: Fregatidae



frigate main features



Magnificent Frigatebirds soar over the ocean on outstretched wings with their head drawn into the shoulders. They rarely flap their wings, but when they do their wingbeats are slow and deep. 


Size & shape

Magnificent Frigatebirds are large seabirds with long, angular wings. They have a deeply forked tail that is often held closed in a point. The bill is long and sturdy with a prominently hooked tip.



Likes the weather in Isla Contoy National Park, in accordance with its decree of creation, is located in the municipality of Isla Mujeres, in the state of Quintana Roo.

Magnificent Frigate-birds range along coasts and islands in tropical and subtropical waters. They nest and roost in mangrove cays on coral reefs and in low trees and shrubs on islands.

Magnificent Frigate-birds forage over warm oceans far out to sea, along the coast, and in shallow lagoons.

Magnificent Frigate-birds eat primarily flying fish, tuna, herring, and squid, which they grab from the surface of the water without getting wet. They also eat plankton, crabs, jellyfish, and other items on the surface of the water including discarded fish from fishing boats.

Magnificent Frigate-birds forage for themselves, but they also chase and harass other seabirds and frigate-birds forcing them to regurgitate recently captured meals, swooping down to steal the meal before it hits the water.

Magnificent Frigate-birds nest in dense colonies on top of low trees and shrubs on islands. Nests are packed into small areas and are often within striking distance of another nest. The female builds the nest on the display perch used by the male she chooses.


Nest Description

The male brings sticks to the female, which she arranges into a flimsy platform about 9-14 inches wide. The male gathers sticks from trees and shrubs, but also steals them from other males. Nest building takes about 13 days.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size: 1 egg
Number of Broods: 1 brood
Egg Length: 2.6-2.9 in (6.5-7.4 cm)
Egg Width: 1.7-2.0 in (4.4-5 cm)
Incubation Period: 53-61 days
Nestling Period: 150-185 days
Egg Description: White.
Condition at Hatching: Naked and helpless.

Fregata magnificens sound


Soar along the coast in the southern United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean staying near water; a perfect excuse for a walk on the beach. They tend to take flight later in the afternoon when winds and thermals are greatest, helping keep them aloft. Look for their long and angular wings and slender silhouette soaring effortlessly alone or with a group of frigate-birds.


Fun facts

  • Frigatebirds are the only seabirds in which the male and female look strikingly different. Females may not have the males' bright red pouch, but they are bigger than males.
  • The breeding period of the Magnificent Frigatebird is exceptionally long. Males and females incubate the eggs for around 56 days, and once hatched, chicks don't leave the nest until they are about 167 days old. Even after they leave the nest, females continue to feed them until they are one year old.
  • The Magnificent Frigatebird spends most of its life flying effortlessly over the ocean. It rarely lands on the water even though it has webbed feet, because unlike other seabirds it lacks waterproof feathers.
  • The frigatebird is sometimes called the "man-o-war bird" because it harasses other birds until they regurgitate recently captured food, which the frigatebird snatches in midair.

Reference source

Birds of the world

Fragata - Isla Contoy-1
Fragata magnificens-contoy-isla-1
01 - LoRes - Fragatas - Fregata magnificens - Isla Contoy

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