St. Lucia
Fregate Islands Nature Reserve

Frigate is the name of the bird, "fregate" the name of their island reserve.

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Fregate Islands Nature Reserve

The Fregate Islands are made up of two small islands, Fregate Major and Fregate Minor, located just a few yards offshore near the fishing village of Praslin on St. Lucia's East Coast and operated by the St. Lucia National Trust.

These two formations are huge lumps of rock, really, but they are where colonies of frigate birds nest from May through July. Frigates are locally called "scisseau" (scissors) because of their distinctive forked tails.

Obviously, there is some discrepancy in the name of the frigate birds and the Fregate Islands but since the property belongs to St. Lucia, they get to choose.

Frigates, also called great frigates or man-o-war birds, prefer bushes low to the ground for building their nests. The males are noted for bright red throat pouches that they inflate to attract mates.

During the May through July nesting season, no visitors are allowed on the islands but you can view the nesting frigates on a 1.5km trail engineered across cliffs and up to an overlook opposite the Fregate Islands.

Afterwards, you return via a strip of fringing mangrove, then pass through a dry ravine and past a small waterfall. The ravine provides a shady canopy of tall bay trees and other dry forest species.

Other birds that may be observed are the Trembler (Cincloerthis ruficauda) and the St. Lucian oriole (Icterus laudabilis). The ramier (Columbia squamosa) sometimes nests in this area.

If you're lucky, you may also see a beautifully colored boa sleeping on the ground.

Since you are forced to look at everything from a distance, take binoculars and/or a good telephoto lens. The inflated red throat of a nesting frigate, like that displayed by many lizards, is a sight you'll long remember.

Outside of the nesting period, August through April, guided tours are available. These typically involved a boat trip to Fregate Minor for a picnic lunch and swim. For more information, check at your hotel for a tour operator.

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