For Release: September 20, 2004
Sarah Taylor (202) 673-0208
John Gibbons (202) 673-4840
Rare Bird Hatches at the National Zoo
A rare Guam Micronesian kingfisher hatched at the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center (CRC) in Front Royal, Virginia, on July 15. This species is extinct in the wild, and only about 65 of these birds exist in captivity. This is the first kingfisher to hatch at CRC in five years of failed breeding attempts.
Micronesian kingfishers are extremely difficult to breed and sometimes as in the case with the recently hatched chickparents will refuse to sit on their eggs. When CRC scientists saw the parents had no interest in caring for the egg, they removed it from the nest for artificial incubation and hand-rearing.
Young chicks need to be fed at two-hour intervals, seven to eight times per day during hand-rearing. "We are now through the period of the chick's most rapid growth," said Scott Derrickson, bird curator at CRC. "Few chicks have been hatched successfully from eggs receiving full-term artificial incubation, so we are extremely pleased."
The Micronesian kingfisher is native to the tiny South Pacific island of Guam and like many other bird species on the island, its population was decimated by the accidental introduction of the brown tree snake. It is believed the snakes originally came to the island as stowaways on lumber shipments from neighboring New Guinea in the late 1950s. Its effect has been disastrousthe alien species has caused the local extinction of five lizard species and nine bird species. In 1984, Guam's Department of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, along with several zoos, captured the remaining 29 kingfishers and sent them to zoological institutions to breed.
During the past two decades, researchers have developed a variety of techniques for controlling brown tree snakes, including barriers, trapping, and toxicants. These recent developments in brown tree snake population control signify that the reintroduction of the Micronesian kingfisher may soon become feasible.
Last September, the National Zoo's Conservation Research Center sent three of its male kingfishers to a breeding facility operated by Guam's Department of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources. Zoo scientists hope to increase the breeding productivity of this species in its native habitat to prepare for its eventual reintroduction on the island.
The Conservation and Research Center of the National Zoo has one of the world's most extensive programs of conservation biology research. Scientists work in the exhibits and behind the scenes at the Zoo, at the CRC, and in field sites around the world. Their research encompasses a broad array of subjects including ecology and biodiversity monitoring, reproduction and animal health, genetic diversity and systematics, and nutrition and geographic information systems. Staff are involved in groundbreaking research pertaining to the conservation of endangered species and ecosystems locally, nationally, and around the world. The objective of these research programs is to develop long-term, collaborative conservation initiatives that utilize the diverse array of scientific, cultural, and political tools to understand and protect species and their ecosystems.
Note to Editors: Photos of the kingfisher chick at hatching, one month old, and two months old are available. Please contact Sarah Taylor at (202) 673-0208 or email@example.com.
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