The name derives from its grace and swiftness in the air and from its piratical tendencies; it harasses boobies, pelicans, cormorants, and gulls until they drop their catch. Man-o'-war birds feed chiefly on fish but also prey on the young of sea birds and on jellyfish, squid, and young turtles. They have long hooked beaks and forked tails; the male has an inflatable orange throat pouch that becomes red at courtship time.
The purplish black magnificent frigate-bird, Fregata magnificens, 40 in. (100 cm) long, is found from the Bahamas and Baja California S to Brazil and Ecuador; the great frigate-bird, F. minor, is found in the Indian Ocean. Other species, e.g., the Ascension and Christmas Island frigate-birds, are named for their habitats. The lesser frigate-bird, the smallest (32 in./80 cm) of the family, is found in the South Pacific and on the islands off Brazil and Madagascar.
Frigate-birds are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Pelecaniformes, family Fregatidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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