how to draw a frigate bird

Frigate birds copyFrigate birds copyOn a trip to Kaua’i I visited the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. The air and cliffs were filled with boobies, albatross and frigate birds. It was stirring to see such abundance of seabirds. I had a great opportunity to observe the structure of the bird’s wings as I sketched the birds flying in and out of nest sites. The birds were cooperative subjects to draw. As they wheeled about, I saw the same in flight positions again and again. There is a special detail of wing anatomy that you need to know to successfully draw these birds. Click to enlarge.

Many seabirds have long, narrow wings that allow them to soar for long periods without needing to flap. In some species, the familiar wing units, primary feathers (attached to the “hand”) and secondary feathers (attached to the forearm) are simply lengthened as in the tern wing to the left. However, albatross, pelicans, boobies, gannets and other seabirds with exceptionally long wings have an additional unit of feathers called humerals that are attached to the humerus (upper arm). This gives the wings an extra kink or Z shape when bent. If you are learning how to draw seabirds, understanding the role of humeral feathers will be an essential part of your game. On Cape Gannets, the humerals are white and the primaries and secondaries are black. Try to pick out the humerals in the slow motion sequences below.

When the wing is folded, the humerus (upper arm) and the radius and ulna (forearm) bend at the elbow to close like a book, the two surfaces of the underside of the wing touching. The wing then folds against the back so that the upper surface of the humerals lay against the back and are covered by the pile of the secondaries. The Short-tailed Albatross is particularly helpful in studying humeral feathers because the secondary feathers on the upper side of the wing turn white proximal to the body, contrasting with the dark humeral feathers. Carefully examine the bird in the video below as it closes its wings. In this video the best view of the wing folding starts about twenty seconds into the film. Replay it several times until you understand how the wing folds.

Frigate birds copyFrigate birds copyOn a trip to Kaua’i I visited the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. The air and cliffs were filled with boobies, albatross and frigate birds. It was stirring to see such abundance of seabirds. I had a great opportunity to observe the structure of the bird’s wings as I sketched the birds flying in and out of nest sites. The birds were cooperative subjects to draw. As they wheeled about, I saw the same in flight positions again and again. There is a special detail of wing anatomy that you need to know to successfully draw these birds. Click to enlarge.

The humerus (upper arm), radius, and ulna (forearm) bend at the elbow to close like a book when the wing is folded, with the two surfaces of the underside of the wing touching. At that point, the wing folds against the back, covering the secondaries’ pile and pressing the humerals’ upper surface against the back. Because the secondary feathers on the upper side of the wing turn white closer to the body than the humeral feathers, which are dark, the Short-tailed Albatross is especially useful for studying humeral feathers. Examine the bird closely as it closes its wings in the video below. About twenty seconds into the movie, you can get the best view of the wings folding in this video. Play it through multiple times until you grasp how the wing folds.

Many seabirds can soar for extended periods of time without flapping because of their long, narrow wings. Certain species only have the familiar wing units—primary feathers on the “hand” and secondary feathers on the forearm—lengthened, as in the case of the left tern wing. But seabirds with extraordinarily long wings, such as albatrosses, pelicans, boobies, gannets, and others, have an extra set of feathers called humerals that are joined to the humerus (upper arm). When bent, this gives the wings an additional kink or Z shape. Gaining an understanding of the function of humeral feathers is crucial for anyone learning to draw seabirds. The humerals on Cape Gannets are white, while the primaries and secondaries are black. Identify the humerals in the following slow-motion clips.

FAQ

What is the symbol of the frigate bird?

The Frigatebird, called Otaha in Tahitian, are symbolic in the Polynesian culture, representing the god, Oro. The emblematic Frigatebird, Otaha in Tahitian is highly symbolic in Polynesian culture, so much so that it is visible in Tetiaroa Society’s logo as well as above the atoll.

What is the red thing called on a frigate bird?

The males have inflatable red-coloured throat pouches called gular pouches, which they inflate to attract females during the mating season. The gular sac is, perhaps, the most striking frigatebird feature. These can only deflate slowly, so males that are disturbed will fly off with pouches distended for some time.

Is a frigate bird a pelican?

Brown Pelicans are bulkier with much broader wings than Magnificent Frigatebirds, and they lack the frigatebird’s long, forked tail. They tend to take more wingbeats and fly lower than frigatebirds, which often soar high in the sky.

What is the nickname of the frigate bird?

The magnificent frigatebird is also known as the pirate bird, condor of the oceans and ‘Man-o’-War’ bird. Common throughout the tropics, this aerial acrobat can be seen across the Archipelago.