Re: birding-aus Frigatebirds; Lady Elliot Island birds

To: "sonnenburg" <>, <>
Subject: Re: birding-aus Frigatebirds; Lady Elliot Island birds
From: David James <>
Date: Mon, 22 Feb 1999 16:21:37 +1000

At 11:03 22/02/99 +1000, sonnenburg wrote:
>Lady Elliot Island's Bird Week (2-7 Feb) and one of the things we tried to
do >was work out what species of Fregata we were seeing.  We saw two adult
male >Greats (Fregata minor) and
>one adult male Lesser (Fregata ariel).  The maximum number of birds we saw
>in any one day was 22. Apart from the three birds just mentioned, the rest
>of the birds were juveniles; very hard to pick which species.  In the end I
>estimated that about two thirds of the birds were Greats.  We got a really
>good look at four perched in a tree one day.  All had blue/green eye ring,
>black eye, pinkish fleshy feet/legs, greyish white bills, brown scapulars. 
> They all had varying amounts of white on head, throat, breast and

Hi Roy,

Great frigatebirds seem to like Lady Elliot. The juveniles and immatures
you were looking at could be either species, as you say. Generally speaking
all Lesser frigatebirds have white spurs in the armpits. Greats never do
EXCEPT for maybe a third of birds in first year (four years to maturity)
while they still have white heads. Thus if a bird has some black on its
head it can be identified by presence or absence of spurs. 

It is a shame none of the field guides cover this group very well. they
really aren't as difficult as their reputation suggests. I have the
information, sketches and photographs for setting the whole thing out in
simple terms, but there's nowhere to publish this sort of thing since
Wingspan changed its editorial policy.
David James
PO BOX 5225
Townsville Mail Centre 4810

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