Monday, 5 March 2012

A mystery solved

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 (and congratulations to the first person to comment at the time, Tim Allwood, on calling the bird correctly).


  1. Good to meet you today Dominic down at Whetsted, trust the photos came out ok. Good blog have added to my favorites. I notice that several of my flickr friends are also members of your blog.

  2. Likewise, Mike. Please post your Flickr URL in another comment so that other blog followers can enjoy your photos online.

  3. Hi again Dominic have added the flickr URL below hope it works.

    You will notice that I have not posted any of the Hooded Merganser as quite frankly they were pretty poor record shots.

  4. Great Flickr site, Mike - some impressive photos, and you did very well with the Kumlien's Gull in Dover that we talked about. FYI, we've just put together a major ID guide on the separate of Iceland and Kumlien's Gull for the next (April) issue of Birdwatch which you might find interesting. I'll keep tabs on your Flickr site in future, but if you'd also like the magazine to keep in touch on particular photo wants, pls send an email to rebecca.armstrong [at] and mention our conversation - she'll keep your details for reference. Best wishes, Dominic



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...