Sunday, December 7, 2014

Flying Pirates

We have been house sitting since the day afterThanksgiving, it's been really nice to have the magnificent views and change of scenery. Not to mention the luxurious accomidations, that our San Alejo house doesn't offer, hot water, laundry facilities, pool...

The way the house is situated at the Boca (mouth of the river) and the Ocean, not to mention the mangroves behind is a haven for birds, they play on the wind currents and really look like they enjoy life. One came to watch us drink our coffee the other morning, and prompted the research for this post.

Veronica was very interested in our visitor, she is our "bird dog" always chasing the robins back in the States, and looking to chase the sea birds here. (Funny thing, this Frigate is probably twice her size.)

The frigatebirds (also known as Fregatidae) are a family of seabirds. They have long wings, tails, and bills and the males have a red gular pouch that is inflated during the breeding season to attract a mate. Their plumage is predominantly black. There are five species, all in a single genus Fregata, found across all tropical and subtropical oceans. They are absent from polar regions.

Frigatebirds are pelagic piscivores that obtain most of their food on the wing. A small amount of their diet is obtained by robbing other seabirds and by snatching seabird chicks. Frigatebirds are seasonally monogamous and nest in colonies. A rough nest is constructed in low trees or on the ground on remote islands. A single egg is laid each breeding season. The duration of parental care in frigatebirds is among the longest for birds.

I also read the reason they steal food, is they don't have the oil that makes their feathers waterproof, so they do not dive as other sea birds do, the stealing food and their large ominous black bodies make them known as the Pirates of the seabird world.

The word frigatebird derives from the French mariners' name for the bird La Fr├ęgate - a frigate or fast warship. The etymology was mentioned by French naturalist Jean-Baptiste du Tertre when describing the bird in 1667. In the Caribbean frigatebirds were called Man-of-War birds by English mariners. This name was used by the English explorer William Dampierin his book An Account of a New Voyage Around the World published in 1697:

The Man-of-War (as it is called by the English) is about the bigness of a Kite, and in shape like it, but black; and the neck is red. It lives on Fish yet never lights on the water, but soars aloft like a Kite, and when it sees its prey, it flys down head foremost to the Waters edge, very swiftly takes its prey out of the Sea with his Bill, and immediately mounts again as swiftly; never touching the Water with his Bill. His Wings are very long; his feet are like other Land-fowl, and he builds on Trees, where he finds any; but where they are wanting on the ground.

Frigatebirds are large, with iridescent black feathers (the females have a white underbelly), with long wings (male wingspan can reach 2.3 metres (7.5 ft)) and deeply forked tails. 

Frigatebirds are found over tropical oceans and ride warm updrafts. Therefore, they can often be spotted riding weather fronts and can signal changing weather patterns.

These birds do not swim and cannot walk well, and cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan to body weight ratio of any bird, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for more than a week, landing only to roost or breed on trees or cliffs.

Hope you enjoyed my post on the Pirates of the air, we really love watching them soar. I will do a post on the Boca house and guest suites next time, also going somewhere with Joffrey, the Ecuadorean hardware store owner and friend, today at noon, we think we are taking a boat to a ceviche festival in Rocafuerte. Should be an adventure! Stay tuned!!

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