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Zoo Welcomes New King...Kingfisher, That Is

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Extinct-in-Wild Micronesian Kingfishers Thriving at BioPark

Zoo Welcomes New King...Kingfisher, That Is

Curator Peter Shannon holds the world’s newest Micronesian kingfisher. Photo by Natalie Sommer/ABQ BioPark.

July 25, 2013

While not as famous as the royal baby, the ABQ BioPark Zoo's new Micronesian kingfisher is one of the most important arrivals of the summer. Micronesian kingfishers (Todiramphus cinnamominus) are extinct in the wild, and only 151 of the rare birds survive in captivity.

The male chick, which hatched on June 13, is being hand-raised. At six weeks old, the bird is self-feeding, fully-feathered and ready to move from its incubator to a larger enclosure where it will develop flight and landing skills. It is the third successful offspring of Micronesian kingfisher at the Zoo. Zookeepers have also been carefully monitoring development of another egg and are cautiously optimistic that kingfisher #152 will hatch on Friday or Saturday.

"We have had success with breeding and raising Micronesian kingfishers for the past two years, which is extremely important for the conservation of this species," said Peter Shannon, Curator of Birds. "We are slowly growing and strengthening the small population that still exists, in hopes that someday we will be able to reintroduce the birds to a wild habitat. This particular species is very difficult to breed because the birds are very picky about their nesting sites and often refuse to raise their chicks, but we learn more and discover better techniques each breeding season."

The chick born on June 13 will continue to be hand-raised on crickets and soft pieces of meat. (Kingfishers are carnivorous - watch a short video of the chick being fed when it was 2 weeks old.) It will remain at the Zoo for at least one year to increase its chances of survival. Two female chicks born in summer 2012 live off exhibit at the Zoo; they will likely move to new facilities after the current breeding season.

ABQ BioPark guests can see one adult pair of Micronesian kingfishers in Tropical America and a second pair next to the Aldabra tortoises. These exhibits are included with regular admission and are open daily from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Micronesian kingfishers used to inhabit Guam, an island that made the perfect home because predatory snakes did not live there. But after World War II, brown tree snakes were inadvertently introduced to Guam, and they easily snatched Micronesian kingfishers and other unsuspecting birds from their nests until bird populations dwindled to near extinction. Scientists collected 29 Micronesian kingfishers to protect them from snakes and to breed a healthy captive population. Zoos have been breeding a captive population since 1988.

For more information, email biopark@cabq.gov or dial 311 locally (505-768-2000).

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