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Galapagos Frigatebirds

Galapagos Frigatebirds

The Islands' Great and Magnificent seabirds

What you need to know about the Galapagos Frigatebirds

There are five species of frigatebird around the tropics, and two of them are found in the Galápagos - the Great Frigatebird and the Magnificent Frigatebird. However the differences between them are very subtle, and only the trained eye of a Galapatours naturalist guide is likely to be able to help you spot the difference! There is a slight difference in the shoulder feathers, and the Great Frigatebird has a green sheen to its plumage, whereas the Magnificent Frigatebird shows a purple sheen. The Magnificent Frigatebird is the larger of the two with a wingspan of up to 45 inches (114cm) compared to 40 inches (105cm) for the Great.

Frigatebirds are most noted for their amazing behaviour during the breeding season. At this time the males will inflate the red sac on their throats with air. These fleshy, bright red balloons are used to show off to females and demonstrate the male’s health and vitality. Competing males will sit in groups with their wings spread, red sacs inflated and heads tilted back. They then clatter their bills and shake their heads and wings whilst calling to passing females and hoping to catch their eye!

Frigatebirds spend most of the time hunting for food, and their diet mainly consists of squid, fish, jellyfish and crabs. They will also steal the hard-caught food out of other birds mouths, particularly from Blue-Footed Boobies.

On a Galápagos cruise you’ll find out more about these remarkable behaviours and thanks to our expert knowledge you’ll also have the best chance of witnessing them for yourself.

Galapagos Frigatebirds: Interesting facts

Great and Magnificent Frigatebirds often nest side by side

Magnificent Frigatebirds are more often spotted in the air around the islands because Great Frigatebirds travel much further out to sea

The two frigatebirds have different calls - Great Frigatebirds gobble like a turkey, and Magnificent Frigatebirds make a drumming sound

Despite being elegant in the air, frigatebirds don't walk very well and can't swim!

Galapagos Frigatebirds: Pictures from our travelers

Galapagos Frigatebirds
Galapagos Frigatebirds
Galapagos Frigatebirds

Spots where the Galapagos Frigatebirds can be observed

A walk on Bartholomew
A walk on Bartholomew

Bartholomew (known as Bartolomé locally) is the most popular excursion for Galápagos visitors, and its iconic scenery is the most photographed in the whole archipelago.

To start your walk on this island you will land in the small bay opposite the famous Pinnacle Rock. You then start the climb to the 375ft peak of Bartholomew. You’ll travel along a half mile trail that includes a series of wooden steps that have been built by the National Park Service to protect the ground here from erosion caused by tourists hiking to the summit.

When you arrive at the top of island the spectacular views will have made your efforts worthwhile. Your Galapatours expert guide will point out all the landmarks you will see from here - Pinnacle Rock itself, jutting skywards. The huge black lava flows of Sullivan Bay. The islands of Daphne Major and Daphne Minor.

On the way back down, you will be able to recognise the different volcanic formations evident on the island, such as tuff cones and volcanic spatter. You'll also see some remarkable examples of the Galápagos' ability to highlight the adaptation of species. For example the  bushes that all look dead are actually very much alive, with leaves covered with special grey hairs that help to reflect the harsh sun and reduce moisture loss for the plants.

Back at the beach there is excellent snorkeling, thanks to the underwater caves and rocks in the area. You will see various sharks, rays and tropical fish. You may also see Galápagos Penguins swimming with you!

Chinese Hat
Chinese Hat

Chinese Hat ("Sombrero Chino" to locals) is an islet set just a short distance off the southeastern coast of Santiago. The small channel between Chinese Hat and mainland Santiago is fairly deep yet sheltered, and the water here is a glistening turquoise.

The islet gets its name because if you approach from the north, you will see that this small volcanic cone does indeed look like the traditional bamboo or rice hat. Viewed from above on a satellite image, however, you will see that this islet is actually more of an oval shape.

There is a short hiking trail on Chinese Hat that runs along the western coast of the islet. This is a harsh landscape of volcanic rubble and lava formations, a very atmospheric reminder of the fiery origins of the Galápagos.

Along the cost of both Chinese Hat and the opposite Santiago shore you are likely to see Galápagos Sea Lions and Galápagos Penguins, either basking in the sun or seeking shade to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Overhead, you might catch a glimpse of the magnificent Galápagos Hawk.

The stand-out reason for a visit to Chinese Hat however is to snorkel in that turquoise channel. Here you can see various species of sharks, rays, and a variety of tropical fish. Not all Galápagos boats can visit, and permits are only given to a select few boats and guides. Here at Galapatours we offer itineraries on all of these specially selected boats, so if a visit to Chinese Hat is important to you, speak to one of our Galápagos experts today to help choose the perfect itinerary.

A walk on North Seymour
North Seymour

The island is named after an English nobleman, Lord Hugh Seymour and has an area of 1.9 square kilometers and a maximum altitude of 28 meters. This island is home to a large population of blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls and hosts one of the largest populations of frigatebirds. North Seymour has a visitor trail approximately 1.2 mi in length crossing the inland of the island and exploring the rocky coast.

North Seymour was formed at the same time as neighboring Baltra Island, and by the same process - an uplifting of undersea lava. This small, flat island has hiking trails throughout, allowing you to explore the arid landscape and to meet the seabirds that call North Seymour home.

North Seymour was the site of one of the earliest conservation experiments in the Galápagos. In 1934 a group of Galápagos Land Iguanas were moved there by Captain Hanckock. They have since thrivedthrived, and there are now well over 2,500 of them on the island and more than 3,000 on the neighbouring Baltra island.

The biggest attraction of North Seymour is its large colony of Blue-Footed Boobies and its Frigatebirds. These popular Galápagos species are often found together because the Frigatebirds rely on the Boobies’ fishing prowess. The Frigatebirds actively steal the Boobies catch to feed themselves!

There is also a population of Marine Iguanas and Galápagos Sea Lions are frequently spotted. The snorkeling here is also very good, with plenty of marine life to see including rays and reef sharks.

Our trips to spot the Galapagos Frigatebirds

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