Zoos protect Micronesian kingfishers from near extinction.
Posted: July 25, 2012
Updated: November 6, 2012
The ABQ BioPark Zoo hatched its first Micronesian kingfisher on Sunday, July 15. Micronesian kingfishers (Todiramphus cinnamominus) are extinct in the wild, and this chick is an important addition to the captive flock that zoos have been protecting for the past 27 years. The chick is being hand-reared behind the scenes.
Found only on Guam, Micronesian kingfisher populations dwindled to near extinction after World War II when brown tree snakes were introduced to the island. Zoos collected the surviving 29 birds to guard them from snake predation. Today, there are about 135 Guam kingfishers in the world, all in captive breeding facilities. Ongoing issues with the brown tree snake continue in Guam. However, biologists are considering several South Pacific islands as future sites for re-establishing wild populations.
“This is a prime example of a zoo program that has kept a species alive while habitat issues are addressed in the wild,” said Peter Shannon, Curator of Birds. “Without captive breeding, many species would no longer exist. Zoos serve an important role in the preservation and conservation of our natural world.”
Micronesian kingfishers typically raise only one chick at a time and are particular about nesting sites. BioPark staff found that a soft cork marketed to duck decoy carvers perfectly mimics the partially rotted logs the kingfishers use to nest. This material may solve the challenge zoos face when trying to find logs suitable for nest cavities.
Four adult Micronesian kingfishers and the new chick live at the Zoo. Visitors can see one pair in Tropical America. As soon as the breeding season ends, the second pair will move into Night Watch. These exhibits are included with regular admission and are open daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
A Second Hatch!
A second Micronesian kingfisher hatched at the ABQ BioPark on September 28. Both chicks have feathered out and are thriving. The younger chick is still being hand-fed, as of early November. The older chick is self-feeding and flying around in a holding exhibit behind-the-scenes.