Behind the Lens: Voluptuous Frigate Birds in Galápagos

On a Galápagos cruise, you will see a dizzying array of birds — and no doubt, they are all interesting. And yet, there’s something supernatural, somehow, about frigate birds.

Certainly, part of the appeal just comes from their appearance. “They look like a flashback to the dinosaur days,” says Silversea Managing Director Peter Shanks, who wrote about his two weeks in Galápagos on Silver Origin. “The males have a wonderful red balloon that comes out below their beak as part of their mating ritual.”

The fascinating love lives of frigate birds

Indeed, while there are many amazing natural wonders to be seen on a cruise to the Galápagos, one highlight has to be the frigate birds’ flamboyant mating ritual, marked by a flutter of black wings and the impressive puff of an inflating red chest.

Silversea Expedition Filmmaker Jorge Prigann was fortunate to capture this peculiar mating display — when the males fill their balloon-like scarlet red throat pouch with air — which occurs during the breeding season.

During the process, frigate birds outstretch their wings as they shimmy their feathers and dip their head back as they shake their head and clap their bill. The antics are performed in the hope of attracting a prospective female as she flies by. Interestingly enough, female frigate birds are vastly different in appearance — no red throat pouch, and they are larger in size than males.

Frigate Bird in Galápagos./Shutterstock

Where to see frigate birds

This experience can be observed within close proximity, Prigann tells us, making it a special experience for onlookers. Breeding colonies can be viewed at North Seymour, Floreana, San Cristobal and Genovesa.

And here’s another reason to take a cruise to the Galápagos to see frigate birds: Two of the world’s five species of frigate birds (the great frigate bird and the magnificent frigate bird) can be found here. What these subtropical and tropical seabirds share in common is a forked tail and a large wingspan that helps them glide so gracefully through the sky.

Want to see frigate birds in person and experience the many wonders of the Galápagos? Start by choosing the right Silversea cruise to the Galápagos Islands for you.