The Micronesian Kingfisher, Todiramphus cinnamominus, was found on three islands or island groups, Guam, Pohnpei, and Palau. The birds of each island are considered subspecies, although some authorities consider each full species. The nominate species T. c. cinnamominus (image above) was found on the island of Guam but became extinct in the wild because of the disastrous introduction of the Brown Tree Snake. It still survives in captive breeding programs and there are hopes of re-introducing it to suitable areas in Guam.
There are currently about 100 individuals of the Guam subspecies in captive breeding programs. Two factors which are discouraging towards successful re-introduction are low breeding success and the continued presence of the Brown Tree Snake in the natural habitat.
It is likely that the Nene, or Hawaiian Goose evolved from a long ago Canada Goose to which it shows obvious similarities. It has been estimated that this ancestor arrived in the Hawaiian Islands some 500,000 years ago, shortly after the islands had formed.
The species inhabits the islands of Maui, Kauai and Hawaii although released birds are found on other islands as well.
At one time the numbers of this species had been reduced to about 30 in 1952, but it is currently estimated at 600 in the wild and another 1,000 in breeding programs and collections around the world. The wild population numbers are frequently supplemented by captive stock being released and without these added numbers, the population might well decline. Birdlife lists it as Vulnerable.
The West Indian Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna arborea), also known as the Black-billed or Cuban Whistling Duck shares the distinctive upright stance of all the Whistling-Ducks. It had dark brown upper parts with a lighter face and dark head cap. Sexes are similar. Its lighter underparts have heavy black markings. There are an estimated population of 10-20,000 birds.
Cuba and surrounding East Indian Islands
Birdlife International lists it as Vulnerable ” because it has a small and severely fragmented range within which it is hunted, and the area, extent and quality of remaining habitat is undergoing a continuing decline, with populations at some sites disappearing altogether. However, there is evidence that the species may now be increasing, and if this were confirmed it may qualify for downlisting to Near Threatened.”
Bird species are suffering around the world, but species confined to islands have been in particular peril. They often have small populations making them vulnerable to local dangers. Often predators are introduced for which they have developed no defenses. Hawaii for example has lost at least 9 species in the last 200 years with more in great peril.
Guam has also suffered losses and the Guam Rail was extirpated on the island in the late 1980’s. It has survived in breeding programs at some zoos, where the above image was taken. There has also been an attempt at introducing it on the island of Rota but this has not necessarily been successful.
There is an area a few kilometers from my house that has some large communication towers, and they leave the grass uncut till late summer. This makes it a haven for grassland birds who have suffered from recent agricultural practice of early grassland cutting and bailing.
It is always a treat to hear the bubbly songs of Bobolinks when they return to breed.
The male plumage is unusual because it is light above which would seem to make it an easier target for overhead birds of prey.
In the background, Savannah Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks are singing.
The eastern race of Purple Martins, Progne subis, are completely dependent on humans for nesting sites, the large multi-celled nesting boxes. They often have to compete for these spaces with more aggressive species like House Sparrows and have suffered declines because of it.
The Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus, is one of the most exciting birds to watch in the world, especially when it chases its prey at speeds of 200 mph (320 kmph).
It breeds widely, in fact it can be found everywhere but the polar regions. It has suffered breeding failure due to DDT contamination but has made an excellent recovery after that chemical was banned.
This increased breeding success has happened here in Ontario with a good number of pairs raising young birds. They prefer tall man made structures like buildings and bridges, especially if there is a supply of pigeons nearby.