Thursday, May 6, 2010

Frigate Birds

Pelicans have long been my favorite birds. I have a large collection of pelicans, from tiny crystal ones to large plush ones. I still like Pelicans but I fell in love with a new bird when I was in Florida this time although I think it will be hard to collect them.

My kids live in the Florida Keys. I believe this was the first time I ever saw Frigate Birds and what awesome creatures they are, soaring through the sky like giant black Batman logos. Frigate birds weigh only about three pounds but can have a wing span of 7 to 8 feet. Although they are seabirds, they can't take off from water so you'll never see them diving, like Pelicans or Gulls. Instead, they swoop down to capture their prey, sometimes without even getting their wings wet.

Frigate birds also can't walk because of their short legs. They can perch but mostly what they do is fly, which they can do for hours or even days without landing, scarcely ever seeming to have to beat their wings.

Frigate birds are bandits. One or two of them will attack another bird that has just caught a fish and harass it until it drops or disgorges  its meal so that the Frigate bird can make off with it. That's how they got their name: after the ships British pirates used. Sometimes they steal from the nest of turtles or other birds.

Male frigate birds have scarlet pouches on their necks that they can inflate when they are courting females. Females have white breasts. They watch after their babies longer than any other bird so that they hatch a chick or two only every other year.

Watching them, menacingly ebony against the blue of the sky and the ocean, they are a study in pure grace.