Frigate Bird Identification

Frigate Bird Identification
The frigatebird, also known as the man-of-war bird, is a large seabird, best identified by it's size, behavior, and location. Visitors to southern Florida and the Florida Keys stand a good chance of seeing this magnificent bird in it's native habitat along the coasts. While not widespread in range, the frigatebird is found in quantity in it's breeding areas.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Binoculars (optional)
  • Binoculars (optional)
Step 1
Consider the size and shape of the bird. The frigatebird is a large bird, usually somewhat more than a yard (36 inches) in length, with an exceptionally wide wingspan--normally almost 90 inches. The wings are pointed on the ends, and the tail is relatively long and deeply forked. The birds are black for the most part, with males displaying a red throat pouch and females white portions on the breast. They are normally silent, only making croaking sounds during courtship.
Step 2
Consider the behavior of the bird. Frigatebirds are magnificent fliers, and will most commonly be seen soaring high above the sea in coastal areas, occasionally swooping low to grab fish or harass other birds, such as gulls and boobies. Because of their large wingspan and small feet, you won't see frigatebirds on beaches or other low areas--they'll only alight onto tall trees or rock outcroppings, where they can dive to gain speed when they initiate flight.
Step 3
Consider the location where you've seen the bird. Frigatebirds are waterbirds whose North American habitat is located in the Florida Keys, although during their non-breeding seasons their range will extend up along both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida. Rare travelers will occasionally be found as far afield as the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana and along the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas.
Step 4
Examine the nests of the bird. Frigatebirds build large nests of bundled sticks, typically high in trees. Mangrove trees in island swamps are a preferred habitat, but other tall trees will often be used when these are not available.

Article Written By Nichole Liandi

Based in Virginia, Nichole Liandi has been a freelance writer since 2005. Her articles have appeared on various print and online publications. Liandi has traveled extensively in Europe and East Asia and incorporates her experiences into her articles. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from West Virginia University.

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