|That Barrier Reef frigatebird - now sorted.|
Last July I posted about a mystery frigatebird I photographed in the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia, back in 2009. The characters it showed didn't seem to fit clearly with either Great or Lesser, the two candidate species in the area, and a good birding friend of mine who has lived in Queensland for years was also reticent about calling the ID. So at the time I solicited comments on the blog and from the Seabird-News group, but only one person was brave enough to respond.
More recently, I posted to the learned ID-Frontiers Listserv, but again received just a single reply. Fortunately, however, Philip Griffin saw that post and kindly forwarded the message to the Birding-Aus list for additional comment. That feedback was very helpful, with several replies received, and the ID now confirmed as Great Frigatebird. Summing up the reasons why, Jeff Davies (illustrator of The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds - the BWP of Oz, as it were) commented: "The first impression from looking at your bird is a darkish throated female Great Frigatebird and that’s what I think it is. Shifting the levels around on your two images shows a blue eye-ring and the bird is lacking white tabs into the underwing, none of this is good for Lesser in the Coral Sea. I would say that the darkish throat, which is probably the reason for your caution [it was], is not a problem and within the spectrum for female Great Frigatebird." He added: "A quick qualification, I do acknowledge that the occasional female Lesser Frigate can have a blue eye-ring off the east coast but it’s not the normal appearance. So the ID should rest on the shape of the white breast patch without tabs onto the under-wing and lack of a sharply demarcated hood with white collar."
You can see the original post at http://www.birdingetc.com/2011/07/lesser-frigatebird.html (and congratulations to the first person to comment at the time, Tim Allwood, on calling the bird correctly).