‘Iwa Bird

This is the great frigate bird known in Hawai‘i as the ‘Iwa Bird.
Photo Credit: Kauila Team
Frigate bird outstretched in flight. Discovery Communications, Inc. 2005. unitedstreaming. 8 February 2006

‘Iwa Bird is also known as the great frigate bird and its scientific name is Frigata Minor. The Hawaiian meaning of ‘Iwa is thief. The ‘Iwa bird may be 43 inches long. This bird soars and glides gracefully and has a wingspan of seven feet. ‘Iwa birds fly offshore even though their feathers are not waterproof. The feet of this bird aren’t webbed like ducks. ‘Iwa Birds may sometimes travel great distances although these birds are usually non-migratory and stay within a boundary of 50 miles from their home. The type of food that these birds eat consists of fish to squid. They swoop down to the ocean surface and snatch prey using their hooked beaks. ‘Iwa birds are able to fly for hours or even days while in search of food without resting on land. Another way adults and juvinials get food is by stealing fish from other birds while in flight although; most of their food is caught on their own. They also may enjoy eating sooty tern chicks and green sea turtle hatchlings.

Adult birds have mostly black plumage. ‘Iwa Birds have blue/gray to black beaks that are long and hooks at the end. The male and female ‘Iwa Birds have a lot of different characteristics and are easy to classify from each other. They male ‘Iwa Birds has a red pouch under its beak and this pouch fills with air when he is looking for a mate. The red ring around of her eye and the white feathers on her throat and breast may classify the female. The females (3.2 pounds) are larger that the males (2.6 pounds). Immature birds have white heads, throats, and breasts. They are also heavily marked with a rusty looking color. The females lay one egg and that egg takes about 55 days to hatch.

The ‘Iwa Bird sets its nest in remote areas or islands that are plentyful with bushes or vegetation. Their nests are poorly made which, is why many of the eggs do not hatch. These birds are very large although, the bird only weighs about three pounds. Its body consists of a low body weight, and put together with two combined huge wings and a forked tail. This unique body structure allows the ‘Iwa Bird to soar all day on thermal drafts. They perform acrobatics like twist and loops while they are in the air. The color of this bird is black with a white chest. The ‘Iwa Birds doesn’t have much natural predators although; young sea birds are prey to mongoose, cats, and rats. ‘Iwa Birds like to take advantage of thermal or circulating, rising hot air that allow them to rise thousands of feet into the air.















Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they.

E nānā aku i na manu o ka lewa; ‘a‘ole lākou e lulu hua, ‘a‘ole hoi e oki ai, ‘a‘ole no hoi e hoahu ae i loko o nā
halepapa‘a; a ua hanai ko ‘oukou Makua o ka lani iā lākou. ‘A‘ole a nei e oi aku ko ‘oukou maika‘i i ko lākou?





Lele ka 'iwa, malie kai ko'o: "When the 'iwa [frigate bird] flies [out to sea], the rough sea will be calm."



A boy named Kamapua‘a was born special because he could change into many things. He could change into ‘Iwa Birds, sharks (mano), sea serpants and more. One day he turned into an ‘Iwa Bird and flew from Tahiti to Maui. He met and mano and asked him about the island. He told him that its emblem was the Lokelani and it was also called “Valley Isle.” Then he flew away to O‘ahu and met a boar. He asked the boar about his island and he said that their emblem was the Ilima and it was also known as the “Gathering Place.” The next island that he went to was Kauai and met a whale and asked him about his island. The whale said that their emblem is the mokihana. His island was also known as “The Garden Isle.” Kamapua‘a continued his day by flying to all of the other islands and learning about them. At the end of his day, he flew home and told all of his friends and family about his adventure.




My Kamapua'a Story. Kamali‘i Elementary. Jan. 20 2006. Feb. 9 2007. <http://www.kamalii.k12.hi.us/EBC2003/legends_5.htm>.

Iwa Frigate Bird. Dec. 20 2007. <http://pvs.kcc.hawaii.edu/rapanui/iwa.html>.

Non-Instrument Weather Forcasting. Dennis Kawaharada. Polynesian Voyaging Society. Feb. 6

Iwa Frigate Bird. Dec. 20 2007. <http://pvs.kcc.hawaii.edu/rapanui/iwa.html>.

"Great Frigate Bird." 28 June 2000. 23 Jan. 2006. <http://www.fws.gov/midway/wildlife/grfr.html>.

Kamehameha School Press. The Ahupua‘a. Honolulu: The Kamehameha School Press, 1994.

Rothman, Robert. "Frigate Birds." 23 Jan. 2006. <http://www.rit.edu/~rhrsbi/GalapagosPages/Frigatebirds.html>.