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Frigatebirds - Seabirds That Can't Get Wet

Masters of staying aloft
© Ronald Woan - Creative Commons View Large

Frigatebirds are seabirds, but one thing you’ll never see is a frigatebird floating on the ocean. Why not? Because their feathers, unlike those of nearly all other seabirds, are not waterproof. Instead, frigatebirds are masters of staying aloft. They soar above the ocean, riding a complex roller coaster of air. Intentionally flying into a cumulus cloud, which has a powerful updraft, they may rise as high as 2.5 miles into the frigid atmosphere. From this high point, frigatebirds — such as these Great Frigatebirds — can glide more than 35 miles without flapping their wings. Which is how these seabirds survive over the open ocean.

Today’s show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Frigatebirds: Seabirds That Can’t Get Wet

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.
[Magnificent Frigatebird, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/136235, 0.13-18]
Soaring above the warm oceans of the world, frigatebirds cut a distinctive profile: huge, slim, angular black birds with a 7-foot wingspan and long, scissor-like tails. They blithely chase down smaller birds like boobies to steal their fishy prey or drop to just above the surface and snatch fish from the water. Perched atop a rocky islet or dead mangrove tree, they look like seagoing vultures. 
But one thing you’ll never see is a frigatebird floating on the ocean. Because their feathers — unlike those of nearly all other seabirds — are not waterproof. 
Instead, the frigatebird is a master of staying aloft. Tracking devices placed on frigatebirds near Madagascar showed that they often stay in the air for a month and half at a time! They’ll soar above the ocean, riding a complex roller coaster of air. 
Intentionally flying into a cumulus cloud, which has a powerful updraft, they may rise as high as 2½ miles into the frigid atmosphere. From this high point, a frigatebird can glide more than 35 miles without flapping its wings.
Which is how this seabird that can’t get its feathers wet — survives over the open ocean.
[Magnificent Frigatebird calls, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/136232, 0.05-.08]
For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.

###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. [136235 and 136232] recorded by Martha J Fischer.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org   November 2016   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#              frigatebird-01-2016-11-21    frigatebird-01 
   
 Excellent background at:
http://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/blog/2016/06/30/frigatebirds-ride-updra... https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/how-frigatebirds-sta...

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