When an unusual sea-bird with iridescent black feathers was sighted on the railway track at Neyyattinkara, it obviously raised a lot of curiosity. But none of them knew it was the first sighting of a rare seabird in the district.
This was the Great Frigatebird scientifically called Fregata minor. The Great Frigate bird is a large seabird and is the second largest Frigatebird after Magnificent Frigatebird. The frigatebirds have the highest ratio of wing area to body mass, and the lowest wing loading of any bird.
The concern of the local residents saw them handing over the bird to the zoo officials here, where zoo veterinarian Dr Jacob Alexander and renowned bird-watcher C Sushanth was quick to have a look at the bird.
The long hooked beak of the bird is an adaptation to snatch fish, not just from the surface of the sea, but even from other sea-birds. “The wing span (single) of the bird was measured as 90 cm. The total wing span including the body is 190 cm. The bird was an aged female bird,” said zoo veterinarian Dr Jacob Alexandar.
Unfortunately, the bird, exhausted by a lot of lonely flight did not live long. It succumbed to fatigue and exhaustion.
“An exhausted Frigatebird was earlier obtained from Chedrapenni, Thrissur district on October 2, 2009. Another sighting was recorded from Kannur coast in August 2010.
The present sighting of Great Frigatebird at Neyyattinkara is the first sighting record of this bird from Thiruvananthapuram region,” said Sushanth.
Male Great Frigatebirds are smaller than females, but the extent of the variation varies geographically. The plumage of males is black with scapular feathers which have a purple-green iridescence when they refract sunlight. Females are black with a white throat and breast and have a red eye ring. Juveniles are black with a rust-tinged white face, head and throat. They usually breed in Seychelles.
What could be interesting about this sighting is that Frigatebirds are usually found over tropical oceans and they ride warm updrafts. Therefore, they can often be spotted riding weather fronts and can signal changing weather patterns.