Above: SCBI hatched its first chick in 1985. Since then, 19 chicks have hatched as part of the Guam Kingfisher Species Survival Plan, including this one on May 17, 2018 Photo: SCBI


CONSERVATIONISTS IN AMERICA are celebrating after a chick of one of the world’s most endangered bird species has successfully hatched.

Following predation by invasive brown tree snakes on its native habitat of Guam island in Micronesia, the Guam kingfisher (Todiramphus cinnamominus) became extinct in the wild in the 1980s, when the few remaining birds were taken to be bred in captivity.

There are now 140 Guam kingfishers in human care at 23 different facilities, including the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Virginia, USA.

The new chick, which hatched at SCBI in May, was the result of a dedicated breeding programme, the Guam Kingfisher Species Survival Plan.

Guam kingfishers are notoriously difficult to breed and this chick was the first to be born at SCBI in the past four years. This species is highly territorial and it has been difficult for conservationists to match up compatible breeding pairs.

The chick’s parents came to SCBI from Saint Louis Zoo and this was the first fertile egg they have produced together. Unfortunately, they did not display appropriate parenting behaviours, so keepers decided to incubate the egg artificially.

A spokesperson from SCBI commented: “The incubation period for Guam kingfishers is relatively short – only 21 to 23 days. The chick hatched after 22 days. During the incubation, keepers candled [the egg]… to track the chick’s development.”

Once the chick had hatched, for the first seven days, keepers fed it every two hours between 6am and 6pm. The spokesperson added: “Keepers are gradually decreasing the number of feedings until the chick is 30 days old and ready to fledge.”

It is hoped that this chick will contribute to this and other captive breeding programmes’ long-term goal to eventually breed enough Guam kingfishers to be able to reintroduce them to a snake-free island in close proximity to Guam.

Watch a short video of the chick hatching at: https://youtu.be/7IU3ypZxfTs

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