Over the past week, our avian team has observed magnificent frigatebirds roosting at the ABC Islands Critical Wildlife Area. While they are frequent fliers of our coastal skies, they don’t often come down and hang out here, except for when there are higher-than-average winds, like those we’ve experienced as Hurricane Michael passed by. During yesterday’s survey, Anne Mauro spotted a frigatebird floating in the water.
Frigatebirds are not able to land on water, or even on land. Their amazing wings, which span more than 90 inches from tip to tip, are slender to allow them to soar long distances, but do not help them produce their own “lift.” They must get a bounce off a tree limb or drop off a high perch in order to be able to flap to get that lift. They generally pluck their fish meals from the water’s surface with their hook-shaped bill, or steal it from another bird — they are considered “klepto-parasites.” Magnificent frigatebirds do not nest in Collier County — their closest nest sites are in the Dry Tortugas and Marquesas Islands.
Back to the ABC Islands, when Anne saw the bird floating in the water, she knew it was in trouble, and quickly scooped it out of the water. It had some energy and she knew from past experience to cover its head to help it relax and grab its feet tightly to prevent its sharp talons from piercing her leg. Then, after making some calls, she arranged to meet a fellow staff member, critter carrier in hand, at the dock, and off it went to the Von Arx Wildlife Hospital for treatment.
We aren’t certain what caused the bird to fall into the water, but we hope to report its safe return in the near future. If you find an injured animal, call them at 239-262-CARE.
Please remember, maintaining a safe distance is imperative for a successful nesting season for all of Florida’s wild life.
Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve stretches across 110,000 acres of pristine mangrove forest, uplands and protected waters. We are committed to preservation through research, education, and land protection.