White-tailed Tropicbird
© Beth Clark

Seabird Species

Frigatebirds & Tropicbirds

Slender, striking birds fishing from the calmer skies of the tropics.

The 5 frigatebird species (genus Fregata) and 3 tropicbird species (genus Phaethon) species are all pelagic and are distributed around tropical oceans.

Tropicbirds have a wingspan of 1.1m, striking white plumage and a characteristic long tail plumage. Whilst foraging, tropicbirds hover and dive into the surface layers of water to catch fish, especially flying fish.

Whilst foraging, tropicbirds hover and dive into the surface layers of water to catch fish, especially flying fish.

Frigatebirds, with a wingspan of 2.3 m are larger than tropic birds, and are easily identifiable by their large, bright red gular sacs, which they inflate to attract females.

Frigatebirds feed without landing on the surface by using their long, hooked beak.

They are also known to be kleptoparasitic, meaning they steal the catch, and sometimes even the eggs and chicks, of other birds.

In The Seabird Tracking Database:
Colonies: 21
Tracks: 1239
Points: 1298529
Data range: 2003 – 2021
Data holders: 11
Species Tracked

Spotlight species: Ascension Frigatebird

Ascension Frigatebird
© Beth Clark

The Ascension Frigatebird (Fregata aquila) is a large black seabird with a forked tail and very short legs. Endemic to Ascension Island in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, the vast majority of the population were confined to the small adjacent Boatswainbird islet, due to predation by invasive rats and feral cats on mainland Ascension. However, since feral cats were removed from mainland Ascension in 2002-04, the number of pairs breeding there has started to grow.

Tracking data contributed to the Seabird Tracking Database (over 100,000 locations) shows that adults can cover thousands of km on foraging trips. This data contributed to the designation of a 445,000 km2 Marine Protect Area around Ascension in 2019.

Please view this page on a desktop computer to see our interactive species colony map.

Tracked colonies of Frigatebirds & Tropicbirds

Use the map below to explore seabird colonies around the world.

Thanks to our data contributors: Henri Weimerskirch; Jacob Gonzalez-Solis; Jonathan Green; Leila Figueiredo de Almeida Silva Campos; Louise Soanes; Luke R. Halpin; Márcio Amorim Efe; Matthieu Le Corre; Sophie Bertrand; Steffen Oppel; Vitor Paiva