Family Frigatebirds (Fregatidae)

Least Concern

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor)


French: Frégate du Pacifique German: Bindenfregattvogel Spanish: Rabihorcado grande
Other common names: Greater Frigatebird

Pelecanus minor

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

Christmas Island, east Indian Ocean


Formerly included in F. aquila. Subspecies somewhat poorly differentiated. Proposed race peninsulae (from NE Australia) regarded as a synonym of palmerstoni. Five subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • F. m. aldabrensis Mathews, 1914 – W Indian Ocean (Aldabra, Comoros, Europa I).
  • F. m. minor (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – C & E Indian Ocean to SE Asian seas and SW Pacific Ocean.
  • F. m. palmerstoni (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – W & C Pacific Ocean (Carolines, Marshalls, Hawaiian Is, Phoenix Is, Line Is, Marquesas, Tuamotu, Society Is, Pitcairns and Sala y Gómez I).
  • F. m. ridgwayi Mathews, 1914 – E Pacific Ocean (Revillagigedo Is, Cocos I, Galapagos).
  • F. m. nicolli Mathews, 1914 – S Atlantic (Trindade I and Martim Vaz Is off E Brazil).
  • Descriptive notes

    82–105 cm; male 1000–1450 g, female 1215–1640 g; wingspan 180–230 cm. Breeding male is brownish black with some bluish but mostly green gloss... read more


    Usually silent away from breeding colonies, but may utter grating calls when excited. Calls at nest... read more


    Tropical and subtropical seas, breeding on small, remote islands, in mangroves (e.g. Rhizophora... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly fish, especially flying-fish (Exocoetidae, including Cypselurus, Exocoetus, Evolantia) of 10–20 cm... read more


    Throughout year, varying with locality; some preference for laying in dry season. Probably biennial, when successful, although recent work... read more


    Sedentary, with dispersal of immatures and non-breeders throughout tropical seas, mostly in Indian... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Global population estimated at 500,000–1,000,000 birds; main threats are probably habitat destruction and disturbance, in some... read more

    Recommended citation

    Orta, J., Kirwan, G.M., Garcia, E.F.J. & Boesman, P. (2020). Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 9 April 2020).