Friday, January 28, 2011

Magnificent Frigatebird, Isla Contoy Nature Preserve

The dock and beach at Isla Contoy; view from a trail on a hill; Isla Contoy, MX; 12/21/10.
 We took a fantastic day long trip to the Isla Contoy; the entire island is an important Nature Preserve in which no motor vehicles are allowed (in fact their are no roads - only trails), and only a limited number of humans are allowed on the island each day. The only permanent residents (other than wildlife) are biologists there to study the habitats of the resident wildlife. Isla Contoy is a 90 minute one-way boat trip from Cancun.

For the next two weekends, I'll highlight Isla Contoy birds and other nature. Hope you can tune in.
Isla Contoy is a prime breeding ground for the Magnificent Frigatebird (MFB), which I have seen soaring high in the sky all around Cancun, Isla Mujeres and other places, but until I came to Isla Contoy I never saw one up close. The biologists estimate that at breeding time there can be as many as 5,000 MFBs inhabitating the island, often at the expense of other birds who are intimidated and chased away by them. We took a trail down to a lagoon where these Frigatebirds were swarming the sky and the trees - it was an awesome sight (Below). They are very seldom seen in the lower 48 states, except for the very tip of southern Florida, and are seen in Hawaii.  In the east they are mostly found throughout the Caribbean Islands and northern Atlantic coastlines of South America, and in the West, they are found along the Baja Peninsula as well as along the Pacific Coastlines of central America into the northern coasts of South America.
Magnificent Frigatebirds roosting in a tree on Isla Contoy, MX; 12/21/10.

Magnificent Frigatebirds are easily identified soaring in the sky with their unique silhouette, Isla Contoy, MX; 12/21/10.
MFBs are very easily identified in the sky with a very unique silhouette (Above), soaring high over shorelines with their two-pronged forked tail, angular wings, and long hooked beak.  They are considered excellent fliers who can spend hours in the air without landing and gliding without flapping their wings. An interesting bit of information is that MFB's feathers cannot get wet so they seldom if ever land on the water, and since their main food source is fish, they chase other birds that have caught a fish and harass them until they drop the fish. The MFBs then dive down with extreme speed and snatch up the falling meal before it hits the water. They are known as the "pirates" of the bird world.

A male Magnificent Frigatebird with its deflated red throat carrying twigs to build a nest, Isla Contoy, Mexico; 12/21/10.
Male Magnificent Frigatebirds are distinctly different than their female counterparts. Females can be as much as 23% larger than males. Adult males are black with greenish shading over the back and a bright red throat sac that is usually deflated (Above). When they want to attract a female they will inflate their throat into an enormous bulb (Below top and middle). Females are black overall (Below middle) with a whitish bar in the upper wings and a white vest across the chest. Young Magnificent Frigatebirds are also black, but with a white head, chest, and belly (Below bottom).
A male Magnificent Frigatebird with an inflated red throat, Isla Contoy, Mexico; 12/21/10.

A male Magnificent Frigatebird with its inflated red throat with its female mate (All black), Isla Contoy, Mexico; 12/21/10.

A juvenile male Magnificent Frigatebird with its white head, chest, and belly, Isla Contoy, Mexico; 12/21/10.

Iguana of the day, Isla Contoy, Mx; 12/21/10.

Like the "Pirate" Magnificent Frigatebird, Cancun pirate ships docked in a marina in Cancun, MX; 12/21/10.

Cancun Pirate ship at night, Mexico; 12/18/10.

Capping off a "magnificent" day at Isla Contoy, a beautiful sunset while returning to Cancun; 12/21/10.
In the next two days of posts, I'll feature more water, wading, shore birds from Isla Contoy.

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