The National Aviary is still caring for our flock during this temporary closure.

You can support the National Aviary and the animals in our care during these uncertain times.

Donate to our Emergency Care Efforts today.

The National Aviary is still caring for our flock during this temporary closure.

You can support the National Aviary and the animals in our care during these uncertain times.

Donate to our Emergency Care Efforts today.

Guam Rail

Caring for birds and mammals is still our top priority during these uncertain times. Please consider helping today. Through your donation or membership, we can continue providing for animals at the National Aviary, as well as sustain our educational programming. Join us: we're all in this together:


Guam Rail (Hypotaenidia owstoni)

NOW Critically Endangered!

A small bird (only about eleven inches, nose to tail),  all-but-flightless, endemic to the island of Guam.  Common and widespread in the past, and prior to 2019 considered extinct in the wild, the Guam rail is now considered critically endangered.  Remaining population carefully managed in mainland United States zoos and select breeding facilities on Guam.

The tiny island of Guam was once home to at least 120 species of forest-dwelling birds, 12 of which were found nowhere else in the world.  Then, shortly after the end of WWII, an innocuous Brown Tree Snake stowed away in an ocean-going vessel and found its way onto the island.  Loose in a land filled with animals not evolved to deal with snakes, and lacking any predators to check its own reproduction, the Brown Tree Snake population exploded.  By 1987, the population of Brown Tree Snakes on Guam exceeded 100 snakes per hectare, and nine of the island’s endemic bird species were gone forever.

Biologists at the Guam Department of Agriculture realized that drastic action was needed if they were going to save what was left of Guam’s native birdlife.  They initiated an unprecedented intervention.  The last of the wild birds on Guam were transported to protected breeding areas on Guam and to zoos in the United States. The National Aviary in Pittsburgh was one of three zoos trusted with breeding pairs of Guam Rails with which to rebuild this threatened population.  A mere 21 Guam Rails were all that kept this species from extinction.

Since then, the National Aviary has led the way in Guam Rail breeding and husbandry, contributing more than 60 birds to the worldwide population, more than half of which have been returned to Guam. The National Aviary has sent more Guam Rails into wild habitats than any other North American zoo. These Pittsburgh-hatched chicks have been among the nearly 200 individuals released on the neighboring islands of Rota and Cocos, where-without the presence of the Brown Tree Snake-it is hoped that the Guam Rails will flourish. Many of the birds that make up these small but thriving populations came from the National Aviary, and helped create the vital genetic reservoir from which the land of Guam will be re-populated.