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The Frigate Birds of Galapagos, Ecuador
Also called man-o'-war birds, frigate
birds are large seabirds (family Fregatidae, order Pelecaniformes) about the
size of a hen and have extremely long, slender wings, the span of which may
reach to about 2.3 m (nearly 8 feet), and a long, deeply forked tail. In
general, adult males are all black, and adult females are marked with white
below. The birds have a bare-skinned throat pouch, which in courting males
becomes bright red and is inflated, for display purposes, to the size of a
person's head. Other distinguishing characteristics are the almost helpless tiny
feet with four webbed toes, and a long hooked bill that is used in attacking and
robbing other seabirds of their fish.
The frigate bird is perhaps the most aerial of all birds except the swift and alights only to sleep or to tend its nest. The adult, with insufficient preening oil to waterproof its plumage, never willingly alights on the water, but it is unbelievably fast and skillful in the air, soaring effortlessly and often diving to recover falling fish dropped aloft by panic-stricken boobies or other seabirds. It also courses low over the water to seize fish. Found throughout the world along tropical and semitropical coasts and islands, the frigate bird usually keeps within 100 miles (160 km) of land, to which it must return to roost. It breeds in crowded colonies on islands. Both parents incubate the single white egg. The largest species (to about 115 cm [45 inches]) is the magnificent frigate bird, Fregata magnificens. [- Encyclopedia Britannica 2004]
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