Great Frigatebird – Accepted

1. 13 Oct 1979

A6Y male

vic. Moss Landing MTY



ph., Roberson (2002:110)

2. 14 Mar 1992

A5Y female

Southeast Farallon I. SF



Fig. 84, ph., AB 46:500, WB 34:88, Richardson et al. (2003:88).








Figure 84. California’s two records of the Great Frigatebird and a specimen from Oklahoma provide all records of this elegant seabird for the coterminous United States. This photograph shows the state’s second record, of an adult or near-adult female at Southeast Farallon Island on 14 March 1992 (1992-121; Peter Pyle).






Great Frigatebird

GREAT FRIGATEBIRD Fregata minor (Gmelin, 1789)

Accepted: 2 (100%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 0

CBRC review: all records

Not submitted/reviewed: 0

Color image: none

This frigatebird occurs throughout large portions of the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans, with a population in the southern Atlantic Ocean off Brazil. The breeding grounds closest to California are far south of Baja California Sur at the Islas Revillagigedo, where Magnificent Frigatebirds also breed. Greats also breed commonly in Hawaii, providing another potential source of vagrants to California. This species is not definitely recorded from mainland Mexico, Central America, or South America, and California’s records furnish two of only three for continental North America (the third refers to a 3 November 1975 specimen of an adult male from Perry, Oklahoma; Tomer et al. 1996).

California’s first Great Frigatebird was an adult male photographed on 13 October 1979 near Moss Landing, Monterey County. Originally left unidentified to species (AB 34:195), it was not submitted for review until after the CBRC had accepted the 14 March 1992 record of an adult, or near-adult, female at Southeast Farallon Island (Figure 84). Howell (1994) capably reviewed the thorny problem of identifying Great and Magnificent Frigatebirds in the field, thereby helping to prompt submission of the 1979 record while aiding the CBRC in its evaluation. The Monterey County bird showed a prominent pale carpal bar on the upperwing coverts, a field mark that reliably distinguishes adult male Great Frigatebirds (Howell 1994). Note that both of California’s records of the Great Frigatebird are outside the early June to mid September interval that includes the great majority of the state’s Magnificent Frigatebird records (see that species account and Mlodinow 1998b).