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Great Frigatebird


Photo Jean-François Butaud


36 inches length. Very large seabird whose wingspan exceeds 79 inches. Adult males are all black and have a red pouch under their throat which they inflate during the parade. They have feathers with green reflections on the back. The females are black with a white throat, which differentiates them from the females of the Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel. This white area extends under the belly and goes up on the flanks. Their eyes are circled in red while those of the males are circled in black. The wings are long and pointed. The tail is long, pointed and forked. The chicks are entirely white (differentiated from young Red-footed Boobies, Sula sula by their beak whose end is hooked) and the juveniles have on the front of the body, the belly and the head, various brown and white zones which evolve with age.

Order: Suliformes

Family: Fregatidae

Category: Seabirds

Comment identifier les Frégates

How to identify Frigatebirds

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


Most tropical seas of the world. Everywhere in Polynesia.


Nests near shorelines, on the ground, in bushes or in trees depending on the degree of potential disturbance of the site. Preference for uninhabited islands, uncrowded coral islands or cliffs of inhabited volcanic islands.

Silent outside their breeding area. During the parade, the male emits a series of gentle hoots that remind the cooing of pigeons to attract females.

To listen the Great Frigatebird:

Parasite other seabirds to force them to drop their prey or regurgitate. In flight birds catch prey on the surface of the sea or on the ground. As they hunt flying fish, they often follow schools of tuna that cause them to escape from the water. They also eat carrion, eggs, nestlings when their parents are away, and young turtles just after hatching.

Breeding is available all year round. The female lays a white egg of 68 x 45 mm. Reproduction has been studied outside of French Polynesia, the egg is incubated 50 days by both sexes. The young leaves the nest at the age of 4 to 5 months but remains dependent 2 to 6 months after fledgling.

Poussin de Frégate du Pacifique_Mopelia © Jean-François Charles

Poussin de Frégate du Pacifique_Mopelia © Jean-François Charles

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



Scientific Name: Fregata minor  (Gmelin, 1789)

Polynesian Names:
Otaha, ota’a (Society, Tuamotu, Gambier Tubuai, Rurutu), iva (Society), mokoe (Tuamotu), kota’a, kotaha (Tuamotu and Marquesas), mokohe, mo’ohe, ua koo, tokoa (Marquesas), tuveau (Marquesas)

  • Most of tropical seas
  • All around in Polynesia


Non-endangered species despite the tendency of Polynesians to eat young birds or to tame them. The bird is then surprisingly familiar with its breeder, even after his flight he returns begging for food at his host. The species is classified as “Least Concern” (LC) on the IUCN Red List.