(Todiramphus cinnamominus)

FUN FACT

Guam Kingfishers have been described as extremely vocal birds with loud resonating calls that could be heard for several hundred meters. The longest and most pronounced vocalization was given by birds in flight, beginning as they take wing—a tendency shared with other kingfisher species, including North America’s Belted Kingfisher.

The Guam Kingfisher (Todiramphus cinnamominus) is small by kingfisher standards. Males average only about 58g (two ounces) and 24 cm (9 inches) long, making them less than half the size of North America’s Belted Kingfisher. Both male and female Guam Kingfishers have an iridescent blue-green back, a disproportionately very large, slightly crested, rust-colored head, and a long, stout, pointed bill. Males have cinnamon-colored underparts, while the underparts of females and juveniles are whitish.  

After World War II, the accidental introduction of brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis) to Guam resulted in the extinction of nearly all of the island’s dozen species of native land bird by the late 1970’s. Biologists realized that drastic action was needed if there was going to be any hope of saving what was left of Guam’s native birds.  In 1984, when the Guam Kingfisher received “Endangered” status from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, fewer than 50 were estimated to remain in the wild.  Twenty-one of these were captured and transported to U.S. zoos; eight more birds were imported in 1986.  The last sighting of a Guam Kingfisher in the wild was in 1988.

Encouragingly, as of 2016 the captive population of Guam Kingfishers had grown almost five-fold to 146 birds.  The world’s population of Guam Kingfishers, and the future of the species is in the hands of 26 different zoological institutions, including the National Aviary, which is proud to participate in and contribute to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the Guam Kingfisher through the recent successful breeding of both pairs in its care.

 

Distribution

Formerly endemic (range-restricted) to the island of Guam in the Northern Mariana Islands

Habitat

Formerly various terrestrial and riparian forests, including mature limestone forest, mixed woodland, and second growth forest stands; occasionally was found in scrub forests and coconut palm plantations

Diet

In the wild reportedly fed entirely on animal food captured on the ground, including invertebrates such as large worms, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, and crabs; small vertebrates such as geckos and lizards

Breeding

Little studied in the wild, but pairs were observed drilling nesting cavities in various trees, usually in decaying standing wood, and generally in taller trees in areas with dense canopy cover; rarely nesting cavities were reported in telephone poles and wooden buildings. Because their foot structure is ill-adapted to clinging, Guam Kingfishers initially excavate their nesting cavity by flying straight at a nesting substrate and repeatedly jabbing their beak at it while flapping vigorously. Pairs also were observed using existing natural cavities such as broken, hollow tree limbs. Nesting in the wild occurred primarily from January through July (outside the rainy season). Normal clutch size reportedly was two eggs, with both sexes sharing the duties of incubation and caring for the young. Incubation and nestling periods for this species in the wild were never documented, but in captivity, chicks hatch in about 23 days and fledge 33 days later.

Status

Extinct in the Wild

At the Aviary

See Guam Kingfishers in Canary's Call.