Home Les oiseaux Lesser Frigatebird

Lesser Frigatebird

Frégate ariel_juvéniles ©Donatien Tanret

Frégate ariel_juvéniles ©Donatien Tanret

Frégate ariel (mâle)@Mikaël Tréguier

Frégate ariel_mâle@Mikaël Tréguier

27-31 inches in length. This bird can reach two meters of wingspan. The male is uniformly black except for two white patches on symmetrical sides visible in flight. It has a red pouch under the throat, it swells during the parade.

Frégate ariel femelle@Mikaël Tréguier

Frégate ariel_femelle@Mikaël Tréguier

The female is black except for a white box on the chest, belly, and flanks and extending laterally into a triangular point at the base of each wing. It is larger than the male. Its throat is black (it is a way to distinguish it from the female Frigatebird, Fregata minor, which has a white throat). Its eye is circled in red while that of the male is circled in black.

The legs and beak of the adult are pink. The beak is strong, powerful, hooked at the end. Juveniles have a reddish plumage.

Order: Suliformes

Family: Fregatidae

Category: Seabirds

Comment identifier les Frégates

Comment identifier les Frégates

Lesser Frigatebird: Frégate ariel (Fregata ariel) – Great Frigatebird: Frégate du Pacifique (Fregata minor)


Most tropical seas of the world; observed in Makemo and Rangiroa in the Tuamotus; in the Leeward Islands (Bora Bora, Huahine, Tahaa) in Tetiaroa, in the Marquesas (Hatuta’a) and Southern (Rimatara).


Nests in the middle of species victims of its thief behaviour (kleptoparasitism). Preferably on volcanic or uninhabited coral islands, sometimes in the vegetation of large volcanic cliffs of the inhabited Marquesas Islands.

cackles when meeting. The male growls. The frigates also slam their beak.

To listen the Lesser Frigatebird:

Young turtles and crabs on the beaches, squid captured on the surface of the sea. They harass other seabirds returning to their nesting sites until they drop their prey. Noddies, Terns and even Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana) are the “victims” of these birds.

The species nests throughout the year. On a heap of sticks built in trees, shrubs and sometimes on the floor, a white-yellow lemon egg 60 x 43 mm is laid. Reproduction is studied outside of French Polynesia, the egg is incubated for 41 days by both sexes taking turns irregularly. The young remain dependent on its parents for over a year. It is therefore common for the frigate to breed once every two years.

Original text by Caroline BLANVILLAIN – Supplements and update by various members of the SOP Manu.



Scientific Name: Fregata ariel (Gray, 1845)
Polynesian Names:
Otaha, ota’a (Society, Tuamotu, Gambier, Tubuai, Rurutu), iva (Society), mokoe (Tuamotu), kota’a, kotaha (Tuamotu, Marquesas), tuveau (Marquesas), tota’a (Marquesas)

  • Most of tropical seas


Species not threatened but the young are eaten by humans.
The species is classified as “Least Concern” (LC) on the IUCN Red List.