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Todiramphus cinnamominus cinnamominus - Micronesian Kingfisher (RMNH 110.027)
RMNH 110.027

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

Micronesian Kingfisher Todiramphus cinnamominus cinnamominus (Swainson, 1821)

  • RMNH 110.027: juvenile. Guam. Collected during the “Voyage de la Coquille”.

Exterminated by a snake
The greatest threat to birds on the Pacific islands are mammals introduced by man, particularly rats. On Guam too birds are threatened by an invader. This time it is not a mammal, but a reptile, the Brown Tree Snake Boiga irregularis, a species native to the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and the north coast of Australia. So far, nine species or races of birds endemic to Guam have disappeared as a result of the introduction of this snake. Two of these, the Micronesian Kingfisher Todiramphus cinnamominus cinnamominus and the Guam Flycatcher Myiagra freycineti, are represented in the collections of the Leiden Museum.

Two other races of the Micronesian Kingfisher, which are still extant, are known from the islands of Palau and Pohnpei. However a closely related species, the Miyako Island Kingfisher, Todiramphus miyakoensis, is only known from a single specimen and has never been seen alive since it was collected in 1887. The population of the kingfisher from Guam declined dramatically as the U.S. air base on the island expanded. Finally, the introduction of the Brown Tree Snake sealed its fate. Technically speaking, the kingfisher from Guam is not extinct. It has disappeared from the wild, but some birds are held in captivity. Captive breeding has become successful and the species could be reintroduced, provided the Brown Tree Snake on Guam were to be exterminated.

Conservation measures on Guam are directed mainly at preventing the snake from spreading to neighbouring islands. Nonetheless, the Brown Tree Snake has already been seen on some of them, but so far appears to have established itself only on Guam.

Museum specimen
The Micronesian Kingfisher in Naturalis was collected by naturalists aboard the French research vessel "La Coquille" in the early 19th century.

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