Fregata andrewsi 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Suliformes Fregatidae

Scientific Name: Fregata andrewsi
Species Authority: Mathews, 1914
Common Name(s):
English Christmas Frigatebird, Andrews' Frigatebird, Christmas Frigatebird
French Frégate d'Andrews
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
Identification information: 90-100 cm. Huge, mostly black, fork-tailed seabird with white belly and pale bar on upperwings. Adult male has red gular pouch and small white belly patch; long, dark grey, hooked bill. Adult female has black head, throat and spur on sides of upper breast and white collar, breast, belly and spur onto axillaries. Pink bill and red orbital ring. Similar spp. Adult Great Frigatebird F. minor male has all black underparts. Female has dusky throat, black axillaries and lower belly. Adult Lesser Frigatebird F. ariel is smaller with black belly. Immature F. minor has shorter bill and tawny-white head (tawny-yellow in F. andrewsi). Immature F. ariel is smaller and tends to have dark belly. Juvenile F. andrewsi tends to have white lower belly and white spur on axillaries. See James (2004) for detailed notes on identifying frigatebirds.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B2ab(ii,iii,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Garnett, S., Green, P., Hennicke, J., James, D., Low, T., O'Dowd, D. & Tirtaningtyas , F.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Ashpole, J, Benstead, P., Bird, J., Calvert, R., Crosby, M., Lascelles, B., Martin, R, McClellan, R., Moreno, R., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
This species has a small population which breeds within a tiny area of occupancy on just one island, and which is continuing to decline. For these reasons it is listed as Critically Endangered.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is endemic as a breeding species to Christmas Island (to Australia), Indian Ocean. In 2003 it was estimated that there were 1,171 (± 58) breeding pairs. The number of nests was probably between 3% and 16% lower in 2003 than 1985 (one generation; 1985 estimates ranging from 1,320-1,620 pairs [Stokes 1988]), but this may not be an accurate indication of population trends. Due to biennial breeding, the total breeding population is between one and two times the number of pairs nesting per annum (i.e. 1,200-2,400 pairs). An historical review of the extent and decline of the four sub-colonies suggests that the pre-settlement population was about 6,300 breeding pairs per annum, but declined to 4,500 by 1910, 3,500 by 1945, 2,500 by 1967, and 1,500 by 1978. If this reconstruction is correct, then the population declined by about 66% over three generations between 1945 and 2003 (James 2003). Currently there are four main sub-colonies in addition to smaller clusters of nests at various locations: 'Golf Course' and 'southern outlier' on the east coast and 'Chinese Cemetery' and 'Margaret Beaches' on the northern coast (James and McAllan 2014). The Flying Fish Cove sub-colony probably contained c.50 ha of habitat in 1887; it underwent an almost complete decline in the early 1900s, and in 2003 it contained only c.10 ha of habitat and two nests. The Dryers sub-colony underwent an almost complete decline by the 1970s, and in 2003 contained c.62 ha of habitat and 20 nests, the Margaret Beaches colony may be a relocation of the Dryers and Flying Fish Cove subcolonies (James and McAllan 2014). The Golf Course sub-colony lost c.13 ha (25%) in the 1940s, and in 2003 it contained c.25 ha of habitat and an estimated 828 (± 42) nests. The Cemetery sub-colony contained 46 ha of habitat and an estimated 321 (± 15) nests in 2003 (James 2003). Surveys in 2004 showed a significant increase in number of nests, with 767 nests in 244 nest trees at the largest colony (James 2004b) but surveys in 2005 showed a return to 2003 levels, suggesting that inter-annual variation rather than population growth explains the increase in numbers in 2004.

Breeding and non-breeding birds have been recorded foraging at low densities in the Indo-Malay Archipelago (James 2004) over the Sunda Shelf to the South China Sea, the Andaman Sea, the Sulu Sea, off south-west Sulawesi, off south-west Thailand and in the Gulf of Thailand (Catterral 1997, Vromant and Chau 2007, D. James in litt. 2007, Tebb et al. 2008, Conlin 2013), commuting directly over Java in the process (James 2006, Hennicke et al. 2015). The seas around West Java, Indonesia seems to be important during the non-breeding season, especially in Jakarta Bay, where 100-200 individuals were recorded in one day (Noni 2012, Burung Laut Indonesia 2013). Pulau Rambut Wildlife Reserve (one of the island in Jakarta Bay) is a roosting site for Christmas Island  and Lesser Frigatebirds (Wardhani 2011).When not breeding the species ranges widely across the seas of South-East Asia to Indochina and south to northern Australia (Stokes 1988, Hennicke et al. 2015). The species' status in the Indian Ocean to the west is generally less well known, however one individual was recorded off the coast of Kanyakumari district, southern India in 2014 (Arivanantham 2014). 

Countries occurrence:
Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; Christmas Island; Hong Kong; Indonesia; Malaysia; Philippines; Singapore; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Timor-Leste
Australia; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; India; Japan; Viet Nam
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:2Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:16
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:1Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The most recent population census indicates a population of 2,400-4,800 mature individuals (D. James in litt. 2003), roughly equivalent to 3,600-7,200 individuals in total. A recent genetic analysis estimated the effective population size to be approximately 5,000 individuals (Morris-Pocock et al. 2012).

Trend Justification:  A historical review suggests that the population declined by around 66% over the last three generations (James 2003), apparently owing to habitat clearance and dust fallout from phosphate mining, marine pollution, over-fishing and bycatch in fishing gear. These declines are projected to continue. Surveys from 2008-2013 show an on-going declining trend in breeding numbers (Hennicke 2014). While the introduced yellow crazy ant has not yet been shown to adversely affect frigatebird colonies directly, it undoubtedly represents a serious future threat due to ant related changes in breeding habitat quality. A substantial cause of mortality, likely to affect population size and trend of the species, is intentional killing in Southeast Asia (Tirtaningtyas and Hennicke 2015).

Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:2400-4800Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:1Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:Yes
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:100

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

It nests in tall forest trees. Terminalia catappa and Celtis timorensis trees hold 65.5% of all nests (Hill and Dunn 2005). It is only capable of raising a maximum of one fledgling every two years. It forages on flying fish, squid and other marine creatures, and is largely dependent on subsurface predators to drive prey to the surface. Most food is captured by plucking it from the sea surface while on the wing, but it is also an accomplished aerial kleptoparasite. Evidence suggests that breeding birds frequently forage hundreds of kilometres from the colony (Hennicke et al. 2015). Replacement rate of pairs is thought to be extremely slow (15-25 years) rendering the population slow to recover following declines (Hill and Dunn 2005). In Jakarta Bay the species roosts on bamboo fish traps ("sero") (Wardhani 2011, Burung Laut Indonesia 2013, Tirtaningtyas and Hennicke 2015).

Systems:Terrestrial; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):15.5
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

The species is hunted by fishermen in Indonesia and Malaysia (shooting, live catching, sedating and poisoning) and can become trapped in fishing gear (Burung Laut Indonesia 2013, Hennicke 2014, Tirtaningtyas and Hennicke 2015). Garbage and pollution produced by several activities around the region (i.e. industry and recreation and sport) are a potential threat in Jakarta Bay (Arifin 2004). It is thought that these threats occur across the species's range and may have significant impacts on the population. About a quarter of the breeding area was cleared before 1946 for phosphate mining, and the Flying Fish Cove colony was largely deserted because of continuing dust fallout from phosphate dryers. Future habitat loss is possible through clearance for mining. A new application to mine a 250 ha area of rainforest (P. Green in litt. 2007) is currently under review. However currently there are no mining activities near breeding sites (Hennicke 2014). About two thirds of the nests are now located in a single sub-colony, making the species vulnerable to cyclones. Poaching ceased in the 1980s. A possible threat is the introduced yellow crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes which formed super-colonies during the 1990s and spread rapidly to cover about 25% of the island or about 3,400 ha. Control measures have so far been unable to eradicate this non-native species, but to date frigatebirds have not apparently been adversely affected by them (Hennicke 2014). However, ant super-colonies alter island ecology by killing the dominant life-form, the red crab Gecaroidea natalis, and by farming scale insects which damage the trees. This may alter the breeding habitat of the species in the medium- to long-term (Hennicke in litt. 2010).

Less specific threats include over-fishing and marine pollution, plus clearance of vegetation and hunting on non-breeding roost islands (P. Green and D. O'Dowd in litt. 2003, S. Garnett in litt. 2003, James 2003, Jensen and Tan 2010). Approximately 10% of the population nests outside the national park and does not have any formal protection (Hill and Dunn 2005). Clearance of vegetation within 300 m of nesting colonies should be avoided (Hill and Dunn 2005). Frigatebirds are highly susceptible to entanglement in fishing gear, so intense fishing pressure in the South-East Asian waters and severe marine pollution there represent significant threats to the species (James 2006, Noni 2012). Research is underway to establish whether a potentially new blood parasite poses a threat to the species (Hennicke in litt. 2010). Initial results show infected birds have higher stress levels which could impact negatively on foraging efficiency and reproductive success (Hennicke 2014).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. Listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Hill and Dunn 2005). The Christmas Island National Park was established in 1980, and has since been extended to include two of the three current breeding colonies (90% of the population) (P. Green and D. O'Dowd in litt. 2003). A recovery plan has been completed (Hill and Dunn 2005) and a study using satellite telemetry and GPS loggers to study movements has been underway since 2005 (J. Hennicke in litt. 2008, 2010, Hennicke et al. 2015). A control programme for A. gracilipes was initiated after 2000, including aerial baiting in 2002, and effectively eliminated the ant from 2,800 ha of forest (95% of its former extent) (P. Green and D. O'Dowd in litt. 2003, Olsen 2005). However, the ant population continued to increase, covering upwards of 500 ha by 2006. Despite continued control efforts, ants remained persistent in 2009, and perpetual baiting may be the only means of controlling them (Olsen 2005). Efforts are underway to find alternative bait that is not toxic to invertebrates on the island (Olsen 2005). Plans have been established to control the scale bugs that the ants tend for their sugar secretions in order to reduce this food supply, but there remains no evidence that they are adversely affecting frigatebird colonies (Hennicke in litt. 2010). A census of the breeding population on Christmas Island is currently being undertaken (Hennicke pers.comm. 2016). In 2014 and 2016, the Indonesian government had a conservation plan to assess seabird bycatch.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Research on the threats to the species off Christmas Island and on the impact of mortality in Indonesian and Malaysian waters on the population size (Hennicke 2014, Tirtaningtyas and Hennicke 2015). Implement the species recovery plan. Continue to control the abundance and spread of A. gracilipes. Develop and implement appropriate techniques to monitor the total/breeding population size, population structure and rate of decline (Hill and Dunn 2005, Hennicke 2014). Undertake year-round monitoring in the Jakarta Bay area (Burung Laut Indonesia 2013). Understand importance of Sunda Straits as a migration corridor for the species (Burung Laut Indonesia 2013). Assess threats to the species in both these areas and identify and protect important sites. Analyse existing data on breeding biology and success and investigate movements and habitat use. Continue tracking of adults and juveniles to identify foraging habitat and model population size and trend (Hennicke 2014, Hennicke et al. 2015). Lobby to prevent mining close to colonies. Negotiate protection of all known and potential nesting habitat and appropriate buffers. Develop and implement appropriate management in feeding habitat in South-East Asia to avoid bycatch and hunting. Maintain a quarantine barrier between Christmas Island and other lands to minimise the risks of new avian diseases establishing (Hill and Dunn 2005).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2017. Fregata andrewsi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22697742A112440836. . Downloaded on 29 May 2017.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided