The Frigatebirds of Eden Rock

The Frigatebirds of Eden Rock

If you’re interested in spotting a variety of wildlife during your stay at Eden Rock, St Barths, you’ll soon discover the island is home to a wide variety of fascinating animals, including the popular and fascinating frigatebird, or ‘Frigate Pelican’. The males of the species are highly visible on the island due to their bright red gular pouch, which is inflated during the breeding season to attract a mate, and making them appear puffed-up with pride! It’s little wonder these flamboyant birds are so popular with bird watchers and nature lovers who visit Eden Rock, as it can be fascinating to take a peep into the unusual lives of these unique birds.

Getting Around

Frigatebirds can often be seen swooping over the oceans offshore of St Barths, riding warm updrafts to stay aloft. Due to their reliance on these warm thermal currents, their appearance or disappearance from an area can actually signify changing weather patterns. The birds do not swim, and cannot walk well, so they are at the mercy of the winds more than most birds. They cannot even take off well from a flat surface, but compensate for this extreme lack of mobility on land with the largest wingspan to weight ratio of any bird, which lets them remain aloft for periods of time longer than a week! A week’s stay at Eden Rock, St Barths might seem much more comfortable than a week spent in the air, but the frigatebird is perfectly adapted for long periods aloft.

Life as a Frigatebird

It can be a slow life for a frigatebird – it takes so long to rear a frigatebird chick that the birds cannot mate every year, and it’s a common sight to see chicks as big as their parents waiting to be fed! Both parents take turns feeding the chicks for the first three months of their development, and the mother takes over for the following eight months of feeding.

When they sit waiting for endless hours in the hot sun, frigatebirds assume an energy-efficient posture in which their head hangs down, and they sit so still that they seem dead. While it might seem that way from a vantage point at Eden Rock, St Barths, it is not the case; when the parent returns, a chick will wake up, bob their head, and scream until the parent opens its mouth. The hungry juvenile plunges its head down the parent’s throat and feeds at last.