Christmas Frigatebird

The Christmas frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) gets its name from the fact that it breeds only on Christmas Island. That island is an Australian territory located south of Indonesia in the Indian Ocean.

Christmas Island is only 52 square miles (135 square km) and home to fewer than 2,000 residents. About a third of the residents live in a settlement called Flying Fish Cove. Speaking of flying fish, that is the main food of the Christmas frigatebird. Flying fish propel themselves out of the water with so much speed that with the help of their wing-like fins they can glide for long distances. They have been filmed staying in the air up to 45 seconds. Their typical flight distance is about 160 feet (50 m), but they can use updrafts from waves to go as far as 1300 feet (400 m). The reason they have this flying ability is to escape predators in the water.

The Christmas frigatebird captures fish in flight above the surface of the water. Flying fish escaping the predators in the water sometimes meet their predator in the air as the Christmas frigatebird grabs it in flight. In this case, the frigatebird doesn’t even have to skim the water. Lunch comes up to meet it in the air.

This interesting confrontation of fish and bird might seem to be unfair to the small flying fish. However, there are many flying fish in 64 species in oceans around the world. The Christmas frigatebird is listed as critically threatened with only a small population breeding in four colonies on one small island. Both flying fish and Christmas frigatebirds are well-designed to do what they do. We see a system of design in the delicate balance of nature. System design does not happen by chance.
© Roland Earnst

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