Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable
Listed marine
Listed migratory - CAMBA
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill, R. and Dunn, A., 2004) [Recovery Plan].
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Reduction in Impacts of Tramp Ants on Biodiversity in Australia and its Territories (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006p) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010l) [Admin Guideline].
 
Information Sheets Final Report of the Christmas Island Expert Working Group to the Minister for the Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010a) [Information Sheet].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument].
 
Declaration under section 248 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of Marine Species (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000c) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory-Christmas Island Frigatebird, Christmas Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi (Woinarski, J., 2006f) [Information Sheet].
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Critically Endangered (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
NGO: Listed as Critically Endangered (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Fregata andrewsi [1011]
Family Fregatidae:Pelecaniformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Mathews,1914
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Fregata andrewsi

Common name: Christmas Island Frigatebird

Other names: Andrew's Frigatebird

The Christmas Island Frigatebird is not differentiated into subspecies (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The Christmas Island Frigatebird is a very large seabird with a mainly black body, a glossy green sheen to the feathers of its head and back, and varying patches of white on the underbody. It has slender, long wings, a deeply forked tail and a long bill with a hooked tip. It has no seasonal plumage changes. Its legs are dull pink, and its feet are black above with pale soles.

Adult males have a large, red gular (throat) pouch which can be inflated. Females have no gular pouch, and have more extensive white on the body than males do. Juveniles have similar plumage to that of adult females, but they have a pale fawn head, a white throat, and a russet necklace. Juveniles have brownish grey feet, and immatures have a tawny yellow head and blue-grey or flesh pink feet (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Breeding colonies of the Christmas Island Frigatebird are currently confined to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean (Gore 1968; Marchant & Higgins 1990). No breeding colonies have ever been found away from Christmas Island.

The area of occupancy of the Christmas Island Frigatebird during the 1987 breeding season was estimated to be around 171 ha (the golf course colony covered around 40 ha, the cemetery colony covered around 65 ha, and the dryers colony covered around 66 ha) (Stokes 1988).

There is very little historical information available to determine the former nesting distribution of the Christmas Island Frigatebird. Early accounts of its breeding colonies and the distribution of current colonies suggest that the shore terrace of Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island may once have been its main breeding area (Andrews 1900; Gibson-Hill 1947, 1949; Stokes 1988), and that it probably had an almost continuous nesting distribution along the northeastern coast from Margaret Beaches to North East Point. It probably also had a separate colony in the sheltered area where the golf course colony is now situated. Since early settlement, the nesting distribution has been fragmented by human development resulting in the three colonies that remain today (Gore 1968; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The Christmas Island Frigatebird nests in only three colonies on Christmas Island. These three colonies are known as the golf course, cemetery and dryers colonies (Stokes 1988). In 1987, the golf course colony contained around 65% of the nests (Stokes 1988).

When not breeding, Christmas Island Frigatebirds range widely around South East Asia and the Indian Ocean, and they are occasional visitors to the shores of Java, Sumatra, Bali, Borneo, the Andaman Islands, Darwin and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Gore 1968; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Of the three breeding colonies of the Christams Island Frigatebird, there is information on nest numbers for only two. A census of nest sites in the golf course colony in 1985 revealed that it contained around 854 occupied nests during the time of peak nest numbers in June and July (Stokes 1988). In May and June 1984, it was estimated that around 100 pairs nested in the dryers colony (Stokes 1984).

The Christmas Island Frigatebird is a pelagic, marine species that frequents tropical waters of the Indian Ocean (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Little is known of the specific habitat requirements of the Christmas Island Frigatebird for breeding. It nests in species of trees that occur throughout Christmas Island, yet it nests in only a small area of the island. It prefers to nest in Indian Almond trees Terminalia catappa (Nelson 1975).

At the golf course colony, Indian Almond T. catappa and Celtis cinnamonea comprise 65.5% of all nest trees chosen (Stokes 1985). Fig trees Ficus are also often used for nesting (Marchant & Higgins 1990), but are rarely used in the golf course colony (Stokes 1985). In the golf course colony, nests are sited preferentially in the lee of the wind (Stokes 1985). Christmas Island Frigatebirds can experience great difficulty in becoming airborne and cannot take off from perches that are less than 3 m from the ground (Gibson-Hill 1947).

Christmas Island Frigatebirds appear to be more restricted in their preference of nest sites than Greater Frigatebirds, which also nest on the island. Christmas Island Frigatebirds tend to nest well down on the shore terrace (Gibson-Hill 1947; Nelson 1972), whereas Greater Frigatebirds will also nest on the slope or lip of the inland cliff or higher up on the terraces (Gibson-Hill 1947).

Christmas Island Frigatebirds roost throughout the year in the same trees that are used for breeding (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The age of first breeding of frigatebirds in general, including the Christmas Island Frigatebird, is at least five to seven years, possibly older (Nelson 1975). It may even be as much as nine or ten years (Croxall & Rotherby 1991).

Nelson (1975) speculated that frigatebirds in general probably have an adult mortality rate of about 4% per year, giving them an average life expectancy of about 25.6 years. He reasoned that some individuals probably live to 40 or 50 years of age. There are no current specific data on the longevity of Christmas Island Frigatebirds.

At the beginning of each breeding season, male Christmas Island Frigatebirds select sites from which they display to females (Marchant & Higgins 1990). The nest is built on the display site after a male has attracted a female. Nests may occur in groups of up to thirty in one tree (Nelson 1975). Males begin displaying in late December and begin forming pairs in late February.

The Christmas Island Frigatebird lays its egg between mid February and early June, but most eggs are laid between early March and mid May (Marchant & Higgins 1990). As in other frigatebirds, Christmas Island Frigatebirds lay single egg clutches and have the ability to replace lost eggs (Nelson 1972). Like other frigatebirds, Christmas Island Frigatebird young are very slow-growing (Nelson 1975), but they appear to grow more rapidly than other species of frigatebirds (Nelson 1972).

Young Christmas Island Frigatebirds first take to the air when they are around six months old (Nelson 1975; Marchant & Higgins 1990), but they remain dependent on the parents for at least a further nine months (Nelson 1975). This extended period of dependence effectively means that the breeding cycle is biennial, because the time from laying to independence is approximately fifteen months.

Young Christmas Island Frigatebirds attain their adult plumage in the beginning of their fourth year (Gibson-Hill 1947).

The main foods of the Christmas Island Frigatebird are probably flying fish and squid (Gibson-Hill 1947). However, it will occasionally forage on land, picking up carrion and offal from beaches, and stealing eggs and nestlings. Grasshoppers have also been recorded from its stomach contents (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The Christmas Island Frigatebird forages either by scooping up marine organisms or offal floating on the surface of the water, or by their piratical habit of harassing other seabirds, and forcing them to disgorge some of their meal. The proportion of food gained by this kleptoparasitism is unknown (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The isolated records of the Christmas Island Frigatebird away from Christmas Island show no apparent pattern, and some birds are present on Christmas Island throughout the year (Gibson-Hill 1947; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

When not breeding, the Christmas Island Frigatebird ranges widely around South East Asia and the Indian Ocean. It is an occasional visitor to the shores of Java, Sumatra, Bali, Borneo, the Andaman Islands, Darwin and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Gore 1968; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Distinctiveness
The species may be confused with Lesser Frigatebird F. ariel and Greater Frigatebird F. minor. Juveniles of these species are extremely difficult to tell apart from the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Recommended Methods
The location of breeding colonies of the Christmas Island Frigatebird are well known, but access to some of these sites is difficult due to the rugged terrain. The size of the breeding population has been estimated by counting nest sites from the ground (Stokes 1988).

Dust fallout from phosphate dryers above the dryers colony of the Christmas Island Frigatebird has adversely affected the colony on the terrace below (Stokes 1988).

In the past, small numbers of Christmas Island Frigatebirds have drowned in mine tailings ponds, because if they crash into the water while trying to feed or drink, they are sometimes unable to take off again (Stokes 1988).

Christmas Island tends to be affected by cyclones or severe storms every five to ten years. The small population size and limited breeding distribution of the Christmas Island Frigatebird mean that chance events such as severe storms could have severe effects on the global population. Many eggs can be lost during a single breeding season due to strong winds (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Possibly the most serious threat to the Christmas Island Frigatebird comes from the introduced Yellow Crazy Ant Anoplolepis gracilipes, which is thought to occupy 15 to 18% of the area of Christmas Island, and may still be spreading. It is not known whether the Yellow Crazy Ant has reached the Christmas Island Frigatebird nesting colonies (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The Yellow Crazy Ant has the potential to not only prey on nestlings, but also to alter the whole ecology of the island (Garnett & Crowley 2000; O'Dowd et al. 1999).

The Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000) and the National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill & Dunn 2004) provide guides to threat abatement and management strategies for the Christmas Island Frigatebird.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley, 2000) [Cwlth Action Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Fishing and Harvesting Aquatic Resources:Overfishing, competition with fishing operations and overfishing of prey fishing National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill, R. and Dunn, A., 2004) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Storms and Flooding:Storm damage National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill, R. and Dunn, A., 2004) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Temperature Extremes:Elevated water temperatures National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill, R. and Dunn, A., 2004) [Recovery Plan].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill, R. and Dunn, A., 2004) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill, R. and Dunn, A., 2004) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Felis catus (Cat, House Cat, Domestic Cat) National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill, R. and Dunn, A., 2004) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Anoplolepis gracilipes (Yellow Crazy Ant, Gramang Ant, Long-legged Ant, Maldive Ant) National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill, R. and Dunn, A., 2004) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Presence of pathogens and resulting disease National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill, R. and Dunn, A., 2004) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill, R. and Dunn, A., 2004) [Recovery Plan].
Pollution:Airborne Industrial/commercial Pollutants:Aerial pollution of industrial chemicals National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill, R. and Dunn, A., 2004) [Recovery Plan].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) (Hill, R. and Dunn, A., 2004) [Recovery Plan].

Andrews, C.W. (1900). A monograph of Christmas Island (Indian Ocean). London: British Museum (Natural History).

Croxall, J.P., & P. Rotherby (1991). Population regulation of Seabirds: Implications of their demography for conservation. In: Perrins, C.M, J.D. Lebreton & G.J.M. Hirons, eds. Bird Population Studies: Relevance to Conservation and Management. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Dunn, A.M. & F.A.R. Hill (1997). The Christmas Island Frigatebird Recovery Plan. Birds Australia, Melbourne.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/birds2000/index.html.

Gibson-Hill, C.A. (1947). Notes on the birds of Christmas Island. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum. 18:87-165.

Gibson-Hill, C.A. (1949). Notes on the nesting habits of seven representative tropical sea birds. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 48:214-235.

Gore, M.J.E. (1968). A Check-list of the birds of Sabah, Borneo. Ibis. 110:165--196.

Hill, R. and Dunn, A. (2004). National recovery plan for the Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi). [Online]. Department of the Environment and Heritage. Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/f-andrewsi/index.html.

Magrath, M.J.L., M.A. Weston, P. Olsen & M. Antos (2004). Draft Survey Standards for Birds: Species Accounts. Melbourne, Victoria: Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage by Birds Australia.

Marchant, S. & P.J. Higgins, eds. (1990). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume One - Ratites to Ducks. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Nelson, J.B. (1975). The breeding biology of Frigatebirds: A comparative view. Living Bird. 14:113--155.

O'Dowd, D.J., P.T. Green, & P.S. Lake (1999). Status, impact and recommendations for research and management of exotic invasive ants in Christmas Island National Park. Centre for Analysis and Management of Biological Invasions, Monash University.

Stokes, T. (1984). An Indicative Appraisal of the Effects of Proposed Clearing and Mining on Terrace-nesting Seabirds of Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. ANPWS, Christmas Island.

Stokes, T. (1985). The 1984 results of Terrace Seabird studies on Christmas Island. ANPWS, Christmas Island.

Stokes, T. (1988). A review of the birds of Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service Occasional Paper.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Fregata andrewsi in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Fri, 1 Aug 2014 06:45:25 +1000.