Fregata minor (Greater frigatebird) 

Groot FregatvoŽl [Afrikaans]; GrootfregatvoŽl [Afrikaans]; Grote fregatvogel [Dutch]; Frťgate du Pacifique [French]; Binden-fregattvogel [German]; Fragata-grande [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Ciconiiformes > Family: Fregatidae

Fregata minor (Greater frigatebird)  Fregata minor (Greater frigatebird) 

Greater frigatebird, Mozambique Channel. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Immature Greater frigatebird, Mozambique Channel. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across tropical oceans, extending through the Mozambique Channel to the area off the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, occupying both coastal and oceanic areas. It is rarely recorded inland in southern Africa, in south-eastern Zimbabwe, Gauteng and the Free State Province.

Movements and migrations

Little known. Juveniles and adults are highly mobile, even though they tend to move at just 9-10 km/h.


It mainly eats flying fish and flying squid, doing most of its foraging at sea, using its hooked bill to hawk prey aerially or from the surface of the water. It also regularly kleptoparasitises other seabirds, using a technique where it grabs the other birds tail which causes it to regurgitate food which it then grabs. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Vertebrates
    • fish
      • flyingfish (Exocoetidae)
    • Sterna fuscata (Sooty tern nestlings)
    • Chelonia mydas (Green turtle hatchlings)
  • squid
    • flying squid (Ommastrephidae)


Breeds on islands, with the largest colonies on Europa Island, Mozambique Channel (just outside southern African waters) and Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles. It typically places its nest on top of a shrub or tree, rarely on a cliff or the ground.


Not globally threatened, although many of its colonies are decreasing in population due to human exploitation, habitat loss, disturbance and introduced predators - it is now nearly extinct in the Atlantic Ocean.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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