Pacific News Minute: Endangered bird native to Guam relocated to Palmyra Atoll
An endangered bird native to Guam is returning to the wild next week. It’s the first time that’s happened in decades.
The Guam kingfisher, locally known as sihek, will return to the wild on May 4 as an experimental population on Palmyra Atoll, according to a final rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published in the Federal Register earlier this month.
The sihek is a rusty-red bird with a long dark blue tail and short dark blue wings, a large charcoal grey bill and a black stripe through its eyes.
The FWS said the bird's primary habitat on Guam has been "indefinitely altered by the accidental introduction of the predatory brown tree snake in the mid-twentieth century."
While tools to manage brown tree snakes at a landscape level are being deployed, the wildlife service said a complete eradication of the bird-eating reptile will take time.
Palmyra Atoll is located halfway between Hawaiʻi and American Samoa.
The agency emphasized that the introduction of sihek to the atoll is not intended to be a permanent solution.
The Pacific Island Times reported the last Guam kingfisher was spotted in the wild in 1988. Biologists brought the surviving 29 birds into captivity to rescue them from total extinction. Today, 152 live in 25 facilities around the world.