'Iwa / Frigate Bird

A large, wide-winged sea bird of the tropical seas (wing span up to 6 feet), the 'iwa soars for hours on updrafts and may stay at sea all night or for days. These birds sometimes travel great distances, though generally are non-migratory and stay within 50 miles of their home islands. As they are incapable of taking off from the surface of the water, they swoop down and pick fish just below the surface or leaping above the water (see mahimahi); or they may attack other birds in flight and steal the fish that their victims disgorge or drop. The 'iwa nests in remote areas or islands on bushes or vegetation. Westerners thought of the Frigate Bird as a bad omen; the Tahitians saw it as an embodiment of the war god 'Oro.