Endangered Species in the Pacific Islands
Micronesian Kingfisher / Todiramphus cinnamomina / 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. In general, they are medium-sized kingfishers measuring around 9 inches (22 centimeters). The upper parts are iridescent greenish-blue, the underparts white or buff, and the cap is rusty-cinnamon colored.
Micronesian Kingfisher - Photo credit
Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society
Habitat & Behavior:
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. They feed entirely on animal matter, including large insects, crustaceans, and lizards. 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.
Past & Present:
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 direct result of predation by the introduced brown treesnake. Kingfishers were last reported in southern Guam in the 1970s. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (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. Research and management efforts continue to reestablish a wild population.
The Service began conducting systematic forest bird surveys in Micronesia in 1981. The Guam population of Micronesian kingfishers, known locally as Sihek, was listed in 1984 as an endangered species on the U.S. Threatened and Endangered Species List. The majority of forest birds were protected on Guam by the turn of the century. In 1960 the enactment of Guam Public Law 6-87 prohibited the taking, buying, or selling of wild birds or their eggs. The Endangered Species Act of Guam (Guam Public Law 15-36), which protects both locally and federally listed endangered species on Guam, was enacted on June 18, 1979.
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. To assist with these efforts, research on the population biology and habitat use of Micronesian Kingfishers on Pohnpei has been undertaken. The results of the research are being applied toward the captive management of the species and reintroduction planning.