New yardbird: Frigatebird!

Although we didn’t get much rain out of this pre-Halloween resurrection of the wet season (a total of .55 inches yesterday), there was a lovely warm breeze blowing this morning as I was taking the lad for his preprandial stroll. We had just made it to the corner where our neighbor Kathy was inside with her little dog, waving at us through the window. After I got done trying to interest Eric in “that doggie in the window” (we didn’t discuss price), I chanced to look up into the cloudy gray sky.

And there, floating overhead on the breeze, just below the low cloud cover, with nary a flap of the wing, was a new bird for the neighborhood: a magnificent frigatebird!* Eric and I dashed home at top speed. As soon as I got inside I yelled to M, who happened to be preparing Eric’s prandium, “Go out back now! Go out back now! Go out back now!” There was no way I wanted her to miss this exciting new species for our house list.

There are those who would pooh-pooh this as a yard bird, claiming that unless the bird is actually physically in your yard, or on your trees, it doesn’t count. I take a more catholic approach to the yard list, claiming, like most sovereign states, the air above their soil as their own. Basically, if it’s in my airspace, I can put it on my list.

This morning’s bird looked very different from a pair of birds I saw at Boynton Inlet last month, took some fuzzy photos of, and eventually decided that they had to be frigatebirds. At first sight, the Boynton birds looked like jaegers; too large for terns, and the black-and-white patterning on them (no good pictures of that, I’m afraid) wasn’t right for any of the normal tern species from around here. Also, they weren’t flying like terns; they were floating up high in the sky, like, well, like frigatebirds. So that’s what I called them. Now, after this morning’s refresher with a real frigatebird, I’m not so sure. Does this really look like a frigatebird to you?



Unidentified bird, Boynton Inlet

The wings are not nearly as skinny as the bird from this morning, and the bill is not nearly as long, either. So I’m going to have to rethink the Boynton birds. Whatever they were, the bird this morning was most definitely a frigatebird. What it was doing over downtown Boca, I’ll never know. We’re a couple of miles from the beach, but these birds are known to wander…

*In case you’re wondering why I’m writing the name of the bird in lowercase, it’s because I’m actually not putting a name to this species. If I were, I would follow the convention of putting the common name in initial capital letters. But, since I was unable to get my binoculars on the bird, and since I don’t know how to distinguish a Magnificent Frigatebird from any of the other (much less likely) species, it’s better not to assume that it was in fact Fregata magnificens, although it is the overwhelmingly most likely choice.

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