Our team at SCBI has been involved in this project since its inception, and most of our chicks are repatriated and released on the islands of Rota and Cocos. It’s important that these birds have a quiet environment and very little contact with humans, as we prepare them for their life in the wild. But Tasi helps his species in a different way.
His job is an important one: to act as an ambassador bird, inspiring and educating the public about his fellow Guam rails by allowing people to meet one of these rare and charismatic birds up close. He enjoys meeting new people during small tours or interviews with reporters. In fact, you may have seen him on the news or gracing the cover of several local newspapers.
Tasi — whose name means “sea” or “ocean” in Chamorro, the native language of the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands — stands about 12 inches tall. His beautiful black-and-white striped chest is contrasted by a deep brown head, back and wings. He has a thin line of silver above his eye and more silver feathers cover the front of his neck.
Guam rails are flightless birds, so Tasi’s toes are unlike those of the birds you might see in your backyard. His forward-facing toes are longer and flatter with short nails. His backward-facing toe (called a hallux) is very short, because unlike some other birds, he does not need to use that toe to grip a perch. That’s because Guam rails are not adapted for perching but for running quickly on the ground through thick grasses and brush.