The Magnificent Frigatebird


It was a late Spring Day with summer gently nudging its way into the South Texas coastline. Another BFF of mine, Kathleen and I are out doing our “Thelma and Louise” thing on the twenty three miles of beachfront located in Matagorda Texas.  A favorite fishing spot for many people, for us it is one of our favorite beach combing areas and of course a great bird watching venue.

Brown Pelicans on beach patrol

This day was a little different from our usual beach jaunts though. We drove perhaps 10 miles or so down the beach and selected a spot to stop and begin our beach combing work. Because of some recent health issues, I was too fatigued to do the miles of walking required to thoroughly scour the beach for sand dollars, whelks, starfish, cockle shells, sundials or any of the many other treasures we hoped to find. So for today, Kathleen had the beach entirely to herself.

I pulled my beach chair from the car, set it in place and planted myself to enjoy the ocean breezes, the blue sky with its scudding white fluffy clouds, and the many different birds that might present themselves to me for observation. The screeching laughing gulls and the terns were scanning the breaking waves at the shoreline in search of a meal, the sanderlings and the “always there” Willets raced back and forth along the shoreline and the Brown Pelicans flew in perfect formation patrolling the beach. So I settled in to rest, enjoy and just be present in that moment. I leaned back in my beach chair and gazed up at the cloud formations and it happened.IMG_6105

I spotted a very large bird soaring high in the sky, higher than most of the regular beach loving birds. I could hardly believe my good fortune. She was huge and effortlessly gliding with the thermal waves around, up and down and through that beautiful blue sky. She was the queen of the air, a magnificent specimen for sure. So impressive that this bird has the name of Magnificent Frigatebird. A name like that tells us right up front that this must be a special bird. And so she is. Her giant forked tail was my first clue to her identity coupled with her large size and great white breast. The male and female are distinctively different from one another, more so than any other bird species. She has a massive white breast and he sports a brilliant red throat. This bird has a nickname of Man O’War because of its speed, sleek body lines and the ability to steal fish from other birds. They spend most of their lives soaring high above the ocean and rarely descend to land on the ocean. They build shaky platforms in mangroves on which to lay their eggs. A group of frigatebirds is known as a “flotilla” or “fleet” of frigatebirds. Seriously…a fleet or flotilla!  With a wingspan of 6-8 feet these are extremely large birds!

Unfortunately for this one moment in time, I had forgotten my camera back at our hotel room so I was forced to record this beautiful bird only in my memory. Later I wrote about her in my Bird Journal and painted a poor image of what I had seen. I have no regrets of not having the photos (Well, maybe a few).  I was forced to record it with the best camera in the world, my eyes, and store it on the best computer hard drive ever made, the brain. That moment, the memory of her beauty will remain with me always. It was a special communion with nature at its finest.IMG_6803

Happy bird searching!