Evolution News & Views July 5, 2016 10:43 AM
Named for fast-moving French warships of the 18th century, the frigate bird is built for gliding. With one of the largest wing surface ratios of any bird, they soar from the ocean surface up to the high clouds, staying aloft for weeks at a time. Recently, scientists traveled to Europa Island, a speck of land in the Mozambique Channel between Madagascar and the African mainland, to study their navigation patterns. What they found pushes the limits of flight physics. Here is a bird that flies over the open ocean for up to two months, yet is unable to land on water.
You may have seen these eye-catching birds in photos of Galápagos wildlife. Both sexes are outfitted in black feathers, having long beaks hooked downward at the tip. Females have white heads, and males have a large red pouch on their necks that they inflate for mating displays. When aloft, they are easy to distinguish by their huge wingspans and forked tails. News from CNRS, the French national center for scientific research, tells more about them: