Virtual Tours: Ascension Island
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Features of Natural Interest

Ascension is hugely important for eleven species of breeding seabird. The most charismatic of these is the previously mentioned Ascension frigatebird Fregata aquila, the only remaining endemic bird to Ascension. It is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, largely due to its very restricted breeding range. The Ascension frigatebird catches its prey in flight, generally foraging far from land over open ocean. This is probably in association with cetaceans and tuna schools that drive smaller prey species within their reach. Their diet appears to consist almost entirely of flying fish but during certain seasons, small groups can also be observed feeding on sea turtle hatchlings and sooty tern chicks over land. Kleptoparatism (the stealing of food from other birds) is known to occur but is not thought to result in a significant part of the species' diet. While adult males are completely black overall with a greenish tint and bright red throat pouch that inflates during courtship, adult females are completely black with a brownish tint and blue rigns around their eyes. Juveniles are similar to the female but have a white head and chest. 

Above, left: Immature frigatebird flying. Above, right: Flying male frigatebird with throat pouch. Below: Female frigatebird sitting on egg, first breeding on mainland since cat eradication. 

© Dr Mike Pienkowski and Mark Cutts
(Features of Natural Interest, 1 of 32 - Slide ref. 602)