Magnificent Frigate

6″ x  12″

Oil on Wood

This female Magnificent Frigatebird flew over us in Dry Tortugas National Park last winter. At the time I didn’t know much about them, but I was fascinated by their efficiency. Charles Darwin called them, “The condor of the ocean.” We laid on the bridge to Fort Jefferson and watched dozens of them floating above us. They soar without beating their wings for hours at a time, and can use their 6-foot wingspan to stay aloft over the sea for months at a time. MONTHS.

Unlike other seabirds, their feathers are not water-proof. So they can’t land on the water to rest. Instead, they have evolved to be one of the most efficient fliers on the planet. They are masters of using naturally occurring updrafts over the ocean. They are the only bird known to intentionally fly INTO a cloud. Puffy white cumulus clouds form over the ocean where heated air rises from the surface. These clouds act like an elevator for frigatebirds, allowing them catch a free ride up to the top of the cloud without using energy. They are by-far the highest flying tropical bird species, flying upwards of 12,000ft.