Christmas Island Frigate - 1st TN Post (42)
|This is the first TN posting of the species - and did it take some getting. We hiked down from one of the three marine terraces and over relic limestone reef - which was razor sharp - 20 mins to cross one reef - there were at least three. Eventually we reached the terrace edge where we had been told Christmas Island Frigates were nesting. We then had to go back ......|
I am putting a shot of a active limestone reef in the workshop to give an idea of what we had to clamber over.
This specimen had his sack deflated - a bit disappointing - but by then we were beyond caring!!
The Christmas Frigatebird or Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) is a frigatebird endemic to the Christmas Islands in the Indian Ocean. Like other frigatebirds, this species does not walk or swim, but is a very aerial bird which obtains its food by picking up live prey items from beaches or the water surface, and the aerial piracy of other birds.
It is estimated that the population of this species will decline by 80 percent in the next 30 years due to predation of the young by the introduced yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes), which has devastated the wildlife of the island, and has also killed 10–20 million Christmas Island red crabs.
The adult male of this species is easily identified, since it is all black except for a white belly patch. Other plumages resemble those of the smaller Lesser Frigatebird, but have whiter bellies and longer white underwing spurs.
The binomial of this bird commemorates the British palaeontologist Charles William Andrews.
FRIGATES - General
The frigatebirds are a family, Fregatidae, of seabirds. There are five species in the single genus Fregata. They are also sometimes called Man of War birds or Pirate birds. Since they are related to the pelicans, the term "frigate pelican" is also a name applied to them. They have long wings, tails and bills and the males have a red gular pouch that is inflated during the breeding season to attract a mate.
Frigatebirds are pelagic piscivores which obtain most of their food on the wing. A small amount of their diet is obtained by robbing other seabirds, a behavior that has given the family its name, and by snatching seabird chicks. Frigatebirds are seasonally monogamous, and nest colonially. A rough nest is constructed in low trees or on the ground on remote islands. A single egg is laid each breeding season. The duration of parental care in frigatebirds is the longest of any bird.
Frigatebirds are large, with iridescent black feathers (the females have a white underbelly), with long wings (male wingspan can reach 2.3 metres) and deeply-forked tails. The males have inflatable red-coloured throat pouches called "gular pouches", which they inflate to attract females during the mating season.
Frigatebirds are found over tropical oceans and ride warm updrafts. Therefore, they can often be spotted riding weather fronts and can signal changing weather patterns.
These birds do not swim and cannot walk well, and cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan to body weight ratio of any bird, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for more than a week, landing only to roost or breed on trees or cliffs.
As members of Pelecaniformes, frigatebirds have the key characteristics of all four toes being connected by the web, a gular sac (also called gular skin), and a furcula that is fused to the breastbone. Although there is definitely a web on the frigatebird foot, the webbing is reduced and part of each toe is free. Frigatebirds produce very little oil and therefore do not land in the ocean. The gular sac is used as part of a courtship display and is, perhaps, the most striking frigatebird feature.
300mm 2.8 lense and x1.4 converter - perched on a tree!!