Micronesian Kingfisher

Todiramphus cinnamomina / Sihek
Sihek

The Micronesian kingfisher is endemic to Micronesia and is comprised of three distinct endemic subspecies: Todiramphus cinnamomina cinnamomina on Guam, Todiramphus cinnamomina reichenbachii on Pohnpei, and Todiramphus cinnamomina pelewensis on Palau. The Guam subspecies has been extirpated from the wild and now exists only in small captive-reared populations in facilities on the mainland and Guam.

The three subspecies are similar to one another in size and shape and differ primarily in the amount and placement of the cinnamon coloration. The upper parts are iridescent greenish-blue, the underparts white or buff, and the cap is rusty-cinnamon colored.

The Micronesian kingfisher is a forest-dwelling bird. These kingfishers use a variety of forested habitats, including extensive tracts of native forest, agroforest (including coconut groves), riparian, and strand vegetation. The kingfisher forages from exposed perches in large trees from which it swoops down to capture its prey. Kingfishers are often seen singly or in pairs; pairs often perch alongside one another on the same perch. They are very territorial. The Micronesian kingfisher nests in tree cavities and both sexes care for the eggs and young.

The kingfisher has a loud, raspy, distinct call that generally consists of three to five harsh, loud notes, followed by several similar but much softer notes. The calls are regularly heard at first light of dawn, though the birds will sometimes call at night. Calls are voiced with such regularity that, according to local belief, they can be used to tell time.

The kingfisher population on Guam was federally listed as an endangered species in 1984, but by 1988, was close to becoming extinct, along with the majority of Guam’s other avifauna. The dramatic loss of the avifauna on Guam was a due primarily to predation by the introduced brown tree snake. Kingfishers were last reported in southern Guam in the 1970s. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey conducted in 1981 estimated the total population remaining in northern Guam to be 3,023. Surveys in 1984/1985 indicated the kingfisher population probably numbered fewer than 50 individuals.

Thanks to efforts by Association of Zoo and Aquarium Institutions, the remaining kingfishers were brought into captivity with plans for their eventual reintroduction back into the forests of Guam. The captive population reached 100 individuals in 2008 and 145 in 2016. Research and management efforts continue to reestablish a wild population.

Although a captive population exists in zoos and on Guam, no wild population has been reestablished. However efforts to reestablish a wild population are still underway. Research continues and findings are being applied toward the captive management of the species and reintroduction planning.

In 2018 a female Guam kingfisher hatched at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia, an event that was published here for viewers to see. 

Facts About Micronesian Kingfisher

Listing Status

Endangered

Average Lifespan

Captivity: 15-20 yrs

Reproductive Age

2 years of age

Diet

Insects, skinks, small crustaceans

Size

Length: 22 cm (9 in); Weight: 50-70 g (1.7-2.4 oz)