Re: Fw: [BIRDING-AUS] Frigatebird ID

To: Niven <>
Subject: Re: Fw: [BIRDING-AUS] Frigatebird ID
From: David James <>
Date: Mon, 05 Mar 2001 11:00:42 +1000
Hi Niven,

Indeed the photo of on p. 471 of the Seabirds NPIAW (Lindsey 1986) is a Great Frigatebird, not a Least as labelled. It is a female most likely in its third year (second basic plumage). Females in second year (first basic) have a more rounded belly patch with traces of black mottling around the vent where this bird has a big black intrusion from the vent making a U-shape in the rear of the belly patch. The pale, untidy mottling around the head and throat are the last traces of immaturity.

You are correct that Least shows white axillary spurs in ALL plumages. However, about a third of 1st year (juvenile) and 2nd year Greats also have white axillary spurs (see p. 465 of NPIAW and photos 395 and 396 in Harrisson 1987), which is perhaps the biggest ID pitfall for these 2 species. Least show more black on the throat in all plumages except juvenile and the early stages of second year (first basic).

Happily and surprisingly, p. 471 appears to be the only misidentified frigatebird photo in NPIAW. However, there's something funny about the photo on p. 469. Even when you turn it up the right way its a terrible photo. Harrison's Frigatebirds are all correctly labbelled as far as I can tell. There are no photos of Least in Enticott & Tippling 1997 (Photographic Handbook of the Seabirds of the World; Hamliyn). The four photos labelled Lesser, and all from Lady Elliot Island on the GBR, are actually all Greaters. The last of these is even mis-sexed.

A word of warning: stay away from Harrison 1983 (Seabirds an Identification Guide) for frigatebirds; it's a complete disaster, bearing little resemblance to reality.


At 17:04 3/03/01 +1000, you wrote:

-----Original Message-----
From: Niven <>
To:  <>
Date: Saturday, 3 March 2001 11:40
Subject: [BIRDING-AUS] Frigatebird ID

G'day everyone

I've been going over the points of separation between the
Frigatebirds we get (or are likely to get) and am a bit puzzled about
one thing. I'd assumed that Least showed the white bar on the
underwing in all plumages (I hadn't noticed any lacking this in my
observations, and the field guides show this) yet there is a photo in
the National Photographic Index (Seabirds, p.471) showing neat
plumage but no white 'armpit bar'. This bird also lacks a dark
throat, which I'd expect to be present in a Lesser Frigatebird at the
age this one looks. Is this a misidentified/mislabeled bird in the
photo (ie, is it Great Frigatebird) or are these two species harder to
tell apart than I thought?
Harrison's photographic guide shows a few photos of
immature/juvenile Lesser Frigatebirds all with the white line on the
underwing, and attaining the dark throat prior to adulthood.
Any comments/suggestions?

They're not that easy, Frigate (birds)

Lindsey, T.R., 1986, The Seabirds of Australia, Angus & Robertson
Harrison, P, 1987, Seabirds of the World - A Photographic Guide,
Croom Helm.
Birding-Aus is on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message
"unsubscribe birding-aus" (no quotes, no Subject line)

David James
PO BOX 5225
Townsville Mail Centre,
Qld 4810, Australia

Birding-Aus is on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message
"unsubscribe birding-aus" (no quotes, no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • Re: Fw: [BIRDING-AUS] Frigatebird ID, David James <=

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU