Great Frigatebird Facts

The great frigatebird facts are quite insightful to read.

The great frigatebird, Fregata minor, is considered a man-o-war bird because of its aggressive behavior towards other species. Surprisingly, this bird is also known as Iwa, based on a Hawaiian word meaning thief. This is mainly because these frigatebirds are known to steal fish from many other birds hovering over the tropical waters.

These birds don't often come into contact with humans due to their roosting location. These locations are concentrated around the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans, and other tropical waters, which is why they are also considered seabirds. They are considered to be social birds, who love to fly rather than roost in trees for longer durations. They have dark plumage and the red throat pouch of males distinguishes them from the white chin and chest patch of females.

Read on to know more about this bird. For more information about other animals check out the frigatebird and the northern gannet.

Great Frigatebird

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Squid, crabs, flying fish, tuna, planktons, herring, jellyfish

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

2.2-4 lb (1-1.8 kg)

How long are they?

33.4-41.3 in (85-105 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Black, red, white

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Humans, rats, cats, owls, frigatebirds

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Inland trees and shrubs, near seashores, ocean divergence


Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean





Scientific Name

Fregata minor





Great Frigatebird Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a great frigatebird?

The great frigatebird, Fregata minor, is a bird belonging to the Fregatidae family of animals.

What class of animal does a great frigatebird belong to?

Great frigatebirds belong to the Aves class of animals.

How many great frigatebirds are there in the world?

In total there are five different species of frigatebirds. Out of these five, the great frigatebird, Fregata minor, has a breeding population of around 59,000 to 71,000 birds and a total of 500,000 to 1,000,000 individual birds across the world.

Where does a great frigatebird live?

The great frigatebird range is usually seen near the tropical habitats around the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans. They are mainly found on the islands around these oceans like Hawaii, the Maldives, the Galapagos, Aldabra, and a few places near Australia.

What is a great frigatebird's habitat?

This species is widely seen near the tropical and subtropical ocean waters, which is the most favorable habitat for these great frigatebirds. They make their colonies on the large islands' inland locations and in the mangroves. These birds hover around the water where they can easily prey on the aquatic species by picking them from the water surface without getting wet. The adult birds move around the tropical shores and even follow other seabirds to steal their prey. This bird is a strong flier and doesn't find it necessary to come near the nesting grounds to roost.

Who do great frigatebirds live with?

These birds are highly social and the individuals usually nest in groups of a minimum of 10 to more than 30 birds. Their groups are either called a fleet or a flotilla. They forage in groups and might even take flight with other species of seabirds.

How long does a great frigatebird live?

These tropical birds have a good life expectancy. A great frigatebird's lifespan can range anywhere between a minimum of 25 and a maximum of 40 years of age.

How do they reproduce?

The males and females of this species are considered to be monogamous in nature, for one breeding season. The breeding season usually runs from December to September and might have variations based on regional factors like food availability and temperature. The adult male great frigatebirds gather in a group of other male birds to attract the adult females, who are soaring above the display ground. The males inflate their bright red throats, known as the gular sac, and face upward, pointing their head and bill towards the sky, where the females are taking their flight. They also flap their wings during this display to get the females to notice them. Once a female agrees to mate, the pair builds a nest on the same tree. This is why their colonies are quite clustered together. After the nests are built, all the females in that colony lay their eggs in synchronization.

The female lays one egg over a span of two years, as the breeding happens once every two years for the females. After the egg is laid, the males and females incubate the egg immediately. This happens alternately for a span of 55 days. After the egg hatches, the young chick stays in the nest for around one year or 16 months. During this time, both the parents take care of the young one. The male and female do not interact with each other as much while caring for the baby in the nest.

What is their conservation status?

Even though this bird has a few predators, its conservation status is of Least Concern, as stated by the International Union for Control of Nature (IUCN).

Great Frigatebird Fun Facts

What do great frigatebirds look like?

The males have a red-colored inflatable throat pouch while females have a pale throat.

Unlike other seabirds, these frigatebirds are dimorphic, when it comes to the size and the plumage of males and females. The male is usually smaller in size than the female. These males have an all-black body including their head and wings. They have a red throat pouch, also known as the gular sac, which is inflatable and is used by the male to attract a female during the breeding season. When not breeding, this red throat patch is deflated and dull in color. The males have a deeply forked tail which helps them soar and maneuver at good heights.

The female on the other hand is comparatively larger in size than the male. The female bird also has an all-black body, with a black head and wings. The female great frigatebird's chest is white in color and connects with its whitish belly. She, too, has a deeply forked tail like the male. This tail helps her to glide and maneuver directions during their flight.

Both the males and females have long bills with a hooked curve at the edge. Their bill's structure makes it easier for them to catch prey on the surface of the water. Both of them have small legs and feet, that are not webbed. This is why it is difficult for them to walk on land or swim or float on the water. This is also the reason why their wings are proportionately larger in size than their body because they help them soar for extended hours.

How cute are they?

With an all-black plumage from their head to their forked tail and strong W-shaped wings that help these birds soar around their nests, these birds seem terrifically beautiful and cute.

How do they communicate?

Apart from the courtship displays and head-waving, these great frigatebirds do communicate with three major calls during different situations. They have a specific landing call, which the males use most of the time when they are getting the food for the young ones in the nest. They also use reeling and warbling calls, especially during breeding time.

This bird is territorial and is also known to use bill-snapping sounds, especially as aggressive notes, when other species get close to the nest or the eggs.

How big is a great frigatebird?

These great frigatebirds are a little bigger than the lesser frigatebirds with a size range of 33.4-41.3 in (85-105 cm). The great frigatebird's wingspan is quite expansive with a length of 80-90 in.

How fast can a great frigatebird fly?

These adult frigatebirds can fly at a good speed of 95 mph, even throughout the night if required. They have small legs as opposed to their large wings. This structure helps them to keep steady during their flights without flapping their wings too often.

How much does a great frigatebird weigh?

These great frigatebirds have a weight range of 2.2-4 lb (1-1.8 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

These frigatebirds do not have specific names for their sexes.

What would you call a baby great frigatebird?

A baby frigatebird is called a chick.

What do they eat?

This species of frigatebird has a carnivorous diet. This diet of theirs includes tuna, crabs, and squid. As fish forms a major part of their diet, they love to prey on the small flying or jumping fish that they can pick right from the surface of the water. They also feed on herrings, jellyfish, and planktons.

Are they dangerous?

This bird species is aggressive in nature, but there is no report of any dangerous event against humans caused by them.

Would they make a good pet?

This species of bird is a wild one that prefers to fly high up in the sky rather than roost in cages or in a refuge. Hence, due to these great frigatebird characteristics, there haven't been any reports of them being kept as pets.

Did you know...

The great frigatebird species is known to sleep mid-flight. Yes, they can afford this as there are no natural predators in the sky that they need to be scared of. Although they are mostly awake while flying, they have the ability to sleep for some time mid-flight by keeping half of their brain alert. Apart from sleeping while they fly, these adult birds can sleep for around 12 hours when on the ground.

Great frigatebird vs. magnificent frigatebird

The great and magnificent species of frigatebirds have similar body structures and plumage with only small differences. For instance, the great frigatebird males have a green sheen on their dorsal wings, while the magnificent frigatebirds have a purple sheen. The great females have red eye rings, while magnificent ones have blue-spotted eye-ring. The magnificent frigatebirds are spotted widely around the areas in North America, while the great ones are focused around the tropical lands in Australia, Mauritius, Hawaii, Aldabra, and the like.

How did the frigatebird get its name?

This bird is considered to be aggressive towards other bird species. Due to this behavior, they got the name frigate, which is derived from a warship. These birds are thus considered as man-o-war, too.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including the kagu and the marbled murrelet.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our frigate bird coloring pages.



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