The flag of Kiribati is red in the upper half with a gold frigatebird (Fregata minor, in Gilbertese: te eitei) flying over a gold rising sun (otintaai), and the lower half is blue with three horizontal wavy white stripes to represent the ocean and the three groups (Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands). The 17 rays of the sun represent the 16 Gilbert Islands and Banaba (former Ocean Island).
Kiribati's flag is an armorial banner, a flag having a design corresponding exactly to that of the shield in the coat of arms.
The coat of arms dates back to May 1937 when it was granted to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, as Kiribati and Tuvalu were then known. The shield was incorporated into the centre of the fly half of a British Blue Ensign as the state ensign of the colony.
Shortly before independence was granted in 1979, a local competition was held to choose a new national flag, and a design based on the colonial coat of arms was submitted to the College of Arms. The College of Arms decided to modify this design. Both the golden frigatebird and the sun were enlarged to occupy more of the top of the flag, and the width of the blue and white wavy bands was reduced. The local people, however, insisted on the original design, in which the top and bottom halves of the flag were equal, the sun and local frigate bird small, and the various design elements outlined in black. The new flag was hoisted during the independence day celebrations in the capital, Tarawa, on July 12, 1979.
The frigatebird symbolises command of the sea, power, freedom and Kiribati cultural dance patterns, the blue and white wavy bands represent the Pacific Ocean, which surrounds Kiribati and the sun refers to Kiribati's position astride the Equator.