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frigatebird sp.

Fregata sp.


Steven Lamonde
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eBird Checklist S48633515
Antioch University New England, Keene
Cheshire, New Hampshire, United States
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Latitude and Longitude 42.9317, -72.2935 Map



Observation details

Edit (9/25/18): This observation has been changed from Magnificent Frigatebird to "frigatebird sp." since Lesser Frigatebird cannot be ruled out. Thanks to the ABA Rare Bird Alert Facebook group for pointing this out! Field notes (9/20/18): I was out on my morning bird walk along the bike path at Antioch University New England in Keene and stopped in the "dirt patch" (42.931022, -72.295765) to see if the Wilson's Warblers from yesterday were still present. I had just taken my binoculars away from my eyes after looking at an Northern Parula, when a flying bird overhead caught my attention. I first thought it was a heron or egret based on the size and flight speed, but what really stood out was the distinctive wing shape (very pointed wing tips, and a remarkably curved upper wing) - something I have never seen before. A large gull or tern crossed my mind as options, but this bird was far larger than a Caspian Tern or any gull, and the wing tips were far more pointy than a gull's. My general impression of size was that it was a little smaller than a Great Blue Heron, but with longer, thinner wings. Additionally, the bird's neck was not obviously bent like a heron's or egret's. Shape-wise, this bird's most distinct features were a narrow body, long pointed wings, long tail, and little to no head projection. I did not have the best angle to judge this last feature, but the bird's relatively small head did not appear to project farther than the front-most part of the upper wing's concave curve. The bird was already past directly overhead when I first saw it, but I did get decent looks at it through binoculars for about 5 seconds before it disappeared behind the treetops flying southeast towards Pearl Street. Although most of my attention was drawn to the wing shape, flight style, and overall shape of the bird, I did get a look at its bill as it turned its head. The bill was long and displayed a hooked end, similar to a cormorant's or shearwater's, but thinner. Since the bird was southeast of me when I observed it, the early sun and thin-overcast conditions back-lit the bird, allowing for poor judgment of plumage color. Best I could guess, the bird was dark, especially its wings and head. The belly may have been a lighter color, but I am not certain. Regarding flight style, the bird struck me as relaxed and buoyant, as if it could soar great distance with minimal flapping. While observing the bird, I don't think it flapped more than 3 times, yet it maintained a consistent altitude, cruising no more than 20-30 feet over the treetops. The bird's flight was relaxed and direct, yet neither labored like a heron's nor bouncy like some terns. Based on these observations, I came to the conclusion of Magnificent Frigatebird. Although I lack any in-person experience with this species, everything about this bird matched what I have observed of frigatebirds in field guides and videos. After the bird flew out of sight, I immediately began running towards my car to chase the bird in hopes of getting photographs. After 2.5 hours of searching, I had to call it quits and head back to Antioch where I promptly sketched my impression of the bird and made a series of notes as best I could recall. I'm kicking myself hard for leaving my camera in the car, since I thought I wouldn't find anything new after yesterday's 13-hour campus-only birdathon (42 species). Thus, no photos, but I do have a sketch and detailed notes of the sighting. Note: I removed a portion of nonessential text from the last paragraph to make room for the edit stated above (the comments field is limited to 4,000 bytes).

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