Imagine someone waiting until just after you've swallowed your last bite of Aunt Tillie's famous pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, and then forcing you to run a marathon until the inevitable gastric upheaval. Then, without as much as a "thank you", they catch the product of your upheaval, eat it, and run away. Shamelessly disgusting! This is how the Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) makes a portion of its living, as an "on-the-wing" kleptoparasite. This Blog has featured "kleptos" before, but none as disgustingly brash and acrobatic as the Frigatebird. This enormous (2 meter wingspan) iridescent black seabird literally harasses (often at breakneck speeds) other self-respecting piscivorous birds until they "toss their fish-sticks". It doesn't stop here; because this bird cannot take off without a freefall (an evolutionary compromise of having the highest wing-size to body-size ratio of any bird) it cannot land on the water to eat its meal. Instead it has to perform amazing acrobatics to "catch the retch" before splashdown. When not "downing up-chuck" it feeds on flying fish caught "on-the-wing". Frigatebirds are also interesting in many less vile ways, not the least of which is the fact that they look a little like pterodactyls!
Post and photo by Matt Leslie.