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Photographing The Great Frigatebird

Here are some top tips on spotting and photographing the great frigatebird.

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Great frigatebird

With its long wings and spectacular flying manoeuvres, the great frigatebird can grab the prey of other birds by harassing them and forcing them to drop or even regurgitate their food.

The great frigatebird can reach a length of 86 to 100 centimetres with a wingspan that can exceed two meters. The male is mainly black with a green sheen on the back. It also has a grey-brown bar in the middle of the wings, forming a V during flight.

The main difference between males and females is the red gular sac that males can distend during the breeding season. Besides the gular sac, females also have a white chest and a greyish throat.

The great frigatebird lives in the tropical and subtropical oceans, the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean and the South Atlantic. Younger individuals are keen on Pacific islands with dense vegetation. This bird has been chosen as the national emblem of the Republic of Nauru.

The name frigatebird comes from the many similarities the bird shares with pirate ships: fast, agile and never reluctant to steal other bird's prey.

Among all birds, the great frigatebird has the larger wing area compared to its weight. These longs wings allow it to fly for days and travel a very long distance. The great frigatebird is also capable of breathtaking aerial acrobatics. Its diet mostly consists of flying fish, squid, small sea turtles and even other seabirds’ chicks. Frigatebirds catch their prey in flight, when they are diving just under the surface of the water or when they are leaping out of the water.

Although it is considered a seabird, the great frigatebird cannot swim. It does not have webbed feet and its plumage is not waterproof. The firm ground is not its favourite place either; such huge wings are not very practical on solid ground. The sky is the place where frigatebirds feel the best. There they can spread their wings without restriction. Youngsters use their flying ability to force other bird species to release their prey by spinning around them. The young frigatebird then catches the released prey before it touches the surface of the water.

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