Update September 09, 2008: After further investigation, I now feel that this bird is most likely to be a variant Magnificent Frigatebird; please CLICK HERE to see my reasoning.
Update September 02, 2008: Mark Bartosik has re-found the bird, and obtained some excellent photos - click here to see them; note that the bird has lost it's right eye, the orbital rings are not red, and at least one photo shows the white extending around the back of the black hood.
Update August 27, 2008: I've received private feedback from a number of highly-respected birders, and the concensus is that this is an adult female Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel.
Update August 23, 2008: I've added six more photos from the original sighting, at the bottom; I took more than 50 images of this bird, so I am still working my way through them to see what is visible - I found a couple of images that do in fact seem to show some color to the orbital ring:
This Frigatebird Fregata sp. was photographed at the end of the Quintana Jetty, Freeport, Brazoria county, Texas on August 19, 2008. Note the following features:-
The bright pink bill - this was striking in the field and even in the difficult conditions (light rain from a varyingly pale gray sky) allowed the bird to be picked out at quite a distance from the gray-billed Magnificents foraging in the same area.
2) The faint wash of pale ginger color on the white chest - this was not noticed in the field (but could easily have been beyond detectability given that my pupils were like pin-points when looking into the bright sky); it could be an artifact, but it seems to be present in all the photos that are close enough.
3) The rounded lower border to the hood on the chest, lacking any suggestion of a black protrusion into the white chest. This section of the hood was also distinctly paler than the rest of the blackish hood - it being instead an even darkish gray.
4) The shape of the black belly intrusion into the white lower chest area - it looks to be in-between a "U" shape and a "V" shape to me.
5) The fairly prominent white markings in the axillaries: quite thick whitish fringes rather than solid white patches.
6) The relatively short tail and bill (compared to a typical Magnificent Frigatebird):
7) Orbital ring color: not seen in the field nor reliably assigned from my photos - but clearly it is not bright red or pink. Given that the vast majority of photos of Great and Lesser Frigatebirds are taken at or near breeding sites, I wonder if the color/brightness of the orbital ring is hormonally variable - so pics taken at/near breeding colonies would be expected to show the orbital rings at their brightest while some non-breeding birds (photographed??) might have significantly different-looking orbital rings -? I am unclear as to how much variation there is within-species for orbital ring color; are there some population-based differences?:
There are two version of the next two images - a brighter one and a paler one; the shooting conditions tended to cause my images to lack much color depth or tonal range:
- this is a crop of the above image that has been lightened a bit, to better-show the throat area:
The following six images (all from the original sighting) were added August 23:-
In the following three images the orbital ring can just about be discerned as being reddish:
The following three images are the only ones where another frigatebird (a juvenile Magnificent) was close enough for a comparison; Given that the relative distances or the two birds in each pic are unknown (and the Optical Size Illusion Effect can distort the size of a more-distant object), much caution needs to be applied in assessing relative size from these images; in the field with the naked eye and via my binoculars the pink-billed bird looked to be slightly smaller, especially in wingspan. Keep in mind that female frigatebirds average larger than males, and it is possible that we are comparing the female pink-billed bird with a small juvenile male Magnificent...: