The Ascension Island Frigatebird (Fregata aquila) is one of the World’s rarest avian species, found only on the remote island of Ascension in the South Atlantic Ocean. This large, dark seabird feeds mainly on fish taken from the surface of the water in flight or pirated from other birds mobbed for their catch. The male of this species can be easily identified by his distinctive scarlet throat pouch. This pouch is inflated during courtship and displayed prominently whilst the wings are extended and vibrated to catch the attention of passing females.
The Ascension Island frigatebird is believed to have once nested on the Ascension mainland in vast numbers. However the species suffered a devastating population decline following the arrival of sailors and colonists - and the consequent introduction of rats and cats - in the early 1800’s. This invasion forced the remaining birds to seek refuge on Boatswain Bird Island – a tiny offshore stack inaccessible to island predators.
In 2002, with the support of the RSPB and FCO, a Feral Cat Eradication Program was launched to rid the mainland of these damaging invaders. The Eradication Program was an overwhelming success and in 2006 Ascension Island was officially declared free of feral cats. Since the launch in 2002 Conservationists have observed the return of a number of species to the mainland. However it was not until December 2012 that the ultimate success was discovered - Ascension Island frigatebirds nesting on the mainland for the first time in over 150 yrs.
This set of stamps commemorates the symbolic return of the endemic Ascension Island frigatebird to the mainland for nesting, following a successful feral cat eradication programme led by the RSPB and Ascension Island Government Conservation Team.