Galapagos Frigatebirds

The Islands' Great and Magnificent seabirds


There are five species of frigatebird around the tropics, and two of them are found in the Galapagos - 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 Galapagos 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.

Photos of the Galapagos Frigatebirds

Fast Facts about the Galapagos Frigatebirds

  • 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!

Where can the Galapagos Frigatebirds be seen?

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All cruises to visit the Galapagos Frigatebirds