WatchList Species Account for Magnificent Frigatebird
(Fregata magnificens)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species


Magnificant Frigatebird

Photo: Dr. Lloyd Glenn Ingle

Despite its reputation as a robber that lives on food it takes from other birds, the Magnificent Frigatebird catches most of its food on its own, snatching fish or squid from near the surface while never alighting in the water.


It breeds in the Pacific Ocean on islands off Mexico, and in the Atlantic on the Dry Tortugas, throughout much of the Bahamas and West Indies, islands off Venezuela, Colombia and French Guiana, and several islands off Brazil. It also breeds on islands in the east Atlantic.


During nonbreeding season, the Magnificent Frigatebird ranges widely in warm coastal and pelagic waters along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the U.S. and throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.


Its nesting habitats include beach scrub, dry deciduous trees and bushes, and mangroves, usually far from human settlement. Much of its diet is flying fish and squid, but also discards from fisheries, scraps discarded by ships and offal from sewage outlets. Its world numbers are estimated at 59,000-71,000 breeding pairs, of which 48,000-58,000 are in the eastern Pacific and Baja California.


The principal threat to the bird is the destruction of its colonies through introduction of feral animals and human disturbance, including ecotourism; these factors have caused the extirpation of approximately half the colonies in the Caribbean. The species is declining and its colonies need legal and physical protection.