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A frigate bird near the university



RARE VISITOR: The frigate bird which landed near the Calicut University campus

A frigate bird, which supposedly lost its way during a migratory flight, has landed near Calicut University campus. The bird, weighing nearly 2 kg, is now in the care of Zubair Medammal, an ornithologist at the university's Zoology Department.

Dr. Zubair confirmed that the bird belonged to the Fregata minor species found in the Pacific and the Indian oceans. Frigate birds are also found in the South Atlantic.

The bird, the stretched wing of which measures two metres from tip to tip, was found trapped in a bush near a house. Dr. Zubair said the bird might have been affected by the strong winds that lashed the region three days ago.

He said it was the first time a frigate bird had appeared in the region. The bird had no injuries. He started examining the bird by feeding it with different kinds of fish. He would make a gut analysis by examining its faeces.

Frigate birds are ocean birds. They attack other sea birds, and hence the name frigate. Related to the pelicans, frigate birds are also called man of war birds or pirate birds.

Also called Iwa (meaning thief in Hawaiian language), these birds are infamous for stealing the food of other seabirds. They depend on the sea for their survival, eating a diet of mostly fish, squid and sea turtle hatchlings.

Frigate birds, found over tropical surface, do not swim or walk, and cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan to body weight ratio among birds, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for more than a week, landing only to roost or breed on trees or cliffs. They also hold the flight speed record, diving at up to 400 kmph. They lay one or two white eggs.

Dr. Zubair said that the bird could rotate its head by more than 180 degrees. "It is a wonderful bird capable of turning your imagination on."

Abdul Latheef Naha

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