Christmas Island Frigatebird
© Linda Cash
Other Names and/or Listed subspecies:Group:
BirdsStatus/Date Listed as Endangered:
EN-US FWS: June 14, 1976
Area(s) Where Listed As Endangered:
Indian Ocean (Christmas Island)
The Christmas Island frigatebird is only found on the Christmas Islands in the Indian Ocean. It is one of five species of frigatebird and the rarest. Frigates birds are very aerial birds and do not walk or swim. They are known as the “pirates” of the bird kingdom because they are known to mercilessly harass other birds, (such as terns and boobies) for the purpose of stealing their food. This aggressive behavior presumably gave rise to the naming of frigatebirds after the early frigate war ships. Frigatebirds are easily identified by their angular wings and deeply forked tails. Adults grow from 35.4 to 39.4 inches in length. Both males and females are black with pale bars on the upperwings, but females have a white breast and belly. Also, males have an inflatable red throat sac that they display when looking for mates.
These birds are usually found in pairs, and it is estimated that only one to two thousand pairs remain on the island. Diet consists of flying fish, squid and other marine animals, and prey is caught by “bomb diving” other birds (forcing them to regurgitate their meals) and catching the food in mid-air. This species has a long breeding season and breeds from January to October. Females only produce one chick, and they only breed once every second year. For nesting, they choose tall forest trees sheltered from strong winds in the area.
This species is threatened by loss of habitat due to forest clearance and human disturbance. The species is also vulnerable to cyclones and forest fires in the area, and introduced yellow crazy ants (Anoplolepis gracilipes) are known to prey on nestlings and alter the island's ecology. Poaching once occurred but was ceased in the 1980s. This species is constantly monitored, and in 1980, the Christmas Island National Park was established and includes two of the three current breeding colonies.
Christmas Island Frigatebird Facts Last Updated: December 9, 2006
To Cite This Page:
Glenn, C. R. 2006. "Earth's Endangered Creatures - Christmas Island Frigatebird Facts" (Online).
Accessed 3/23/2017 at http://earthsendangered.com/profile.asp?sp=155&ID=4.