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Micronesian Kingfisher

Like other bird species in Guam, the Guam Micronesian kingfisher (Halcyon cinnamomina cinnamomina) population was decimated after the arrival of the brown tree snake. Faced with imminent extinction in the wild, Guam’s Department of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources and several institutions captured the last 29 kingfishers between 1984 and 1986.

Guam Rails

Captive Breeding Program

The Micronesian kingfisher has proven to be difficult to breed in captivity. The Species Survival Program began with the 29 individuals and grew to 65 birds by 1991 but dropped to only 59 birds in ten U.S. institutions in late 1999.

When the program began, there was very little information on the nutrition and behavioral ecology of wild Micronesian kingfishers. The kingfishers had very specific nest log requirements. When successful nesting did occur, propagators were discouraged to discover that newly hatched chicks were disappearing from the nest.

Most zoos were feeding newborn mice to their kingfishers, and scientists feared that some parents were confusing their blind and naked hatchlings with food. Micronesian kingfishers are now fed a more natural diet featuring small lizards called anoles. Researchers are hopeful that the population will begin to increase once again as our understanding of their behavior grows.

At the National Zoo

A Micronesian kingfisher chick was hatched at the National Zoo's Rock Creek facility in 1998. He has since matured into a beautiful adult male. In 2003, a new male arrived at the Zoo and was paired with a female. In July 2004, perhaps the world's 65th kingfisher hatched at the Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Virginia.

At the Zoo's Bird House, visitors can see Micronesian kingfishers as well as Guam rails. See the brown tree snakes that decimated these birds on Guam in the Reptile Discovery Center.

Long-term Goal

The captive population in 2004 consists of about 65 birds. The long-term goal of the captive breeding program is to have 100 to 200 birds in captivity in 25 separate zoological institutions.