No other bird soars as high and as beautiful as the frigate bird, according to new data. Henri Weimerskirch, the leader of a team of researchers and an ornithologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, has proof to support that claim.
They tracked the frigate birds in their flights with transmitters as the traveled across the Indian Ocean and South Pacific. Their evidence was published this week in the journal Science.
The frigate bird is a big, black sea creature that uses air currents to keep flying for days and weeks on end. It is possible for these magnificent birds to cover 40 miles with a single wing flap.
Riding the air currents up and down, the monitored birds were found traveling an average of 300 miles a day. Researchers were surprised to see the frigate bird purposefully going into the clouds – something that no other species was seen doing.
“They’re doing it right through these cumulus clouds,” explained Curtis Deutsch, an oceanographer at the University of Washington. “You know, if you’ve ever been on an airplane, flying through turbulence, you know it can be a little bit nerve-racking.”
Not for the frigate birds, however, who are true beasts of the sky with their 6-foot wingspan and the highest ratio of wing surface area to body weight among all the known bird species.
A master of air currents, trade and thermals winds, and an amazing soarer, the frigate bird needs to perform these long-distance flights in order to survive. It’s the only seabird that doesn’t have waterproof feathers, which means that getting wet is a certain death sentence; soaring back up would be impossible, and the bird would drown within minutes.
Its feeding habits are rather peculiar because of this; instead of diving to catch fish, the frigate bird is stuck flying in circles waiting for larger predators to push bait fish to the surface. Then, it dives in a blink of an eye, catching the prey in mid-air.
‘Flying prey’ is not all that common, meaning that the birds have to travel for days before they find any food. Since flying power is the most important feature for this species, the frigate bird parents spend the longest time teaching their babies to fly.
Image Source: Wikimedia