Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigatebird


The magnificent frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) or man o' war is a seabird of the frigatebird family Fregatidae. With a length of 89–114 centimetres (35–45 in) and wingspan of 2.17–2.44 m (7.1–8.0 ft) it is the largest species of frigatebird. It occurs over tropical and subtropical waters off America, between northern Mexico and Perú on the Pacific coast and between Florida and southern Brazil along the Atlantic coast. There are also populations on the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific and the Cape Verde islands in the Atlantic.

Distribution And Habitat

The Magnificent Frigatebird occurs through the tropical and subtropical coastal waters of the Western Hemisphere including the West Indies, where it is generally a common resident throughout the islands (Raffaele and others 1998). In addition, it occurs on the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa (Biaggi 1997, Oberle 2018, Raffaele and others 1998). It is described as common along most coastal areas of Puerto Rico (Oberle 2018), and it inhabits/ nests on Monito (Oberle 2018) as well as other adjacent offshore cays around Puerto Rico (Biaggi 1997), although it formerly nested in Desecheo. On Vieques, it is described as a fairly common non-breeding resident (Gemmill 2015). It usually occurs over bays, coastal lakes and lagoons, inshore waters, mangrove islands, and offshore cays but can also wander well inland soaring on thermal currents or after storms or hurricanes (Biaggi 1997, Oberle 2018, Raffaele and others 1998). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 138 records within 138 hexagons or 29 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 138 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 1 percent (2) of the hexagons and possible in 3 percent (4), while the species was observed in 96 percent (132) of the hexagons but without evidence of breeding (see map).Magnificent Frigatebird distribution. The map shows the highest breeding code by hexagon and overlaying the ecological life zones in Puerto Rico. Note: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding. 135Magnificent Frigatebird/Fragata Magnífica

Magnificent Frigatebird Distribution

Breeding Habits

Previously published reports indicate that the Magnificent Frigatebirds breeding season is highly variable but appears to peak in November and February (Raffaele and others 1998). It nests colonially, sometimes among other seabirds, and the nest usually consists of a crude structure made of sticks and twigs, normally built in a tree or bush but sometimes directly on the ground (Biaggi 1997, Oberle 2018, Raffaele and others 1998). Atlas results suggest that this species breeds mostly from February to April and to a lesser extent also during August, October, and December (see chart). Overall, the breeding activity appears to peak in April, and it equally takes place within the subtropical dry and moist forest life zones (see chart). Results show that this species breeds mostly in coastal areas within the subtropical dry forest life zone (67 percent of the hexagons) (see table and map).


The current population trend of the Magnificent Frigatebird is described as increasing in southern North America (Butcher and Niven 2007), and it is currently listed as a species of Least concern by the IUCN (BirdLife International 2018). Locally, this species is not listed in any of the threatened categories of PRDNER and USFWS. In Puerto Rico, the Magnificent Frigatebird has a protected habitat in land of 6 percent or 9 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (144 km2).