Celebrating Seniors - Guam Micronesian Kingfisher
Once widespread on their home island, Guam Micronesian kingfishers are now extinct in the wild. The introduction of the brown tree snake decimated this colorful bird, leaving zoos as a last refuge for recovery.
A scientific breeding program organized by the Guam Micronesian Kingfisher Species Survival Plan® has helped bolster the population’s numbers. The resident pair at the McCormick Bird House have done their part to spur recovery, producing 47 chicks between them.
That lineage doesn’t end at the first generation. The birds’ offspring have bred as well, producing 52 chicks of their own. From those grandkids, five more chicks have burst out of the shell. It’s a sizable legacy for two birds that aren’t even elderly—although that flock of grandkids certainly qualifies them for elder statesmen status.
“They’re well into middle age, but I wouldn’t classify them as geriatric,” says Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds Colleen Lynch. “They are both in excellent health.”
The birds’ impressive number of offspring stems from the Guam Micronesian kingfisher’s ability to produce two chicks per clutch, three to four times a year. While both Lincoln Park Zoo birds have produced sprawling family trees with past partners, they haven’t had any chicks together since being introduced here last year.
Still, keepers provide them with a “packed” nest log every spring so the pair can take turns using hard beaks to drill a nesting hole. When the birds aren’t busy prepping for breeding season, they spend a lot of time sitting still and keeping a watchful eye on their exhibit. “It’s typical behavior for an ambush predator,” says Lynch. Behavior that—if offspring are any indication—will carry on for generations to come.
by James Seidler
In honor of Grandparents Day, Sundays in September were dedicated to special chats highlighting the exceptional care provided to the zoo’s elder statesmen.