The great frigatebird is a large bird living near the ocean in areas around the equator. In Hawaii, this bird is called “‘Iwa”, the Hawaiian word meaning “thief.” It gets this name from its habit of stealing food from other sea birds. The ‘Iwa, with a wingspan of up to 7 feet (2.3 m), has the largest wing size of any bird in comparison to its body. Frigatebirds are large for birds, measuring up to 41 inches (105 cm) in length. Despite their large size, these birds weigh very little, at most 3.25 pounds (1.5 kg). Females are larger than the males and can weigh slightly more. When catching their meals of fish or squid, they do not land in the water because they cannot take off from it easily. Instead, they fly a little bit above the water and dip their beak into it to catch their meal. They also sometimes steal their food from other birds. The great frigatebird, unlike other frigate birds, has a hooked beak, and their beak is longer than other species.
Once frigatebirds reach the age of 9 years, they start mating. The females only mate every other year because the chicks take about one and a half years to raise. The males on the other hand mate yearly, with a different female each time. When trying to attract a mate, the males will inflate their huge red pouch under their chin. The females do not have the ability to expand their neck which is white instead of red. When nesting, these birds choose small islands that are usually uninhabited, where they nest by the thousands. The females lay a single egg on a platform-like nest which is built on top of small shrubs near the shore. The egg is incubated for 55 days by both the male and the female. When they hatch, the chicks have no feathers and are always guarded by at least one parent, protecting against sun, rain, and predators. Once the chick becomes one month old, the parents both leave the nest to search for food which they feed to the chick about every 18 hours. In between 3 and 5 months of age, the young will attempt their first flight, but they will still depend on the parents for food for the first 18 months. The oldest known frigatebird lived to age 37.
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- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
- Frigatebird: public domain
- Frigatebird range: Wikipedia user Mirko Thiessen
- Mystery animal: Wikipedia user-Bartek.cieslak