The near-extinct Guam Kingfisher's silence is deafening
Nearing extinction is a rather heavy reality for the Guam Kingfisher many know as the sihek. This beautiful creature has been forced into captivity since the 1980s - but there is now a chance we could one day soon hear them back in the wild.
30 years is how long its been since the sihek population last flourished in our jungles. The silence today is deafening and it tells a story. Only two of guam's native forest birds remaining in the wild today. The cause: brown tree snakes, feral animals, and deforestation.
But Guam wildlife biologist Anthony Tornito says there may be hope just yet, saying, "So the sihek are currently extinct in the wild. And what it is is that we have ten in captivity right now and our goal is to breed them and our population is also going to be ones geared up for eventual release on Guam, the descendents of these birds."
The Guam Department of Agriculture’s Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources is gearing up for a potential release of Guam’s sihek on an island thousands of miles away. "The Palmyra Atoll acts as a catalyst for the siheks return into the wild," Tornito added. "Unfortunately it's not Guam, but it is a gateway to getting to Guam because these birds have been extinct in the wild for more than 30 years."
"The habitat there is pretty much what I guess Guam's ecosystem looks like. A key species to know of is pisonia. And pisonia was actually known to be one of the trees the sihek favored for nesting and in CHamoru that's called omumu," he added.
Just like the ko’ko birds, Guam’s sihek holds cultural significance. "This bird has been part of the CHamoru culture and it’s endemic to Guam. endemic meaning this genetic line is only found here. So it’s a big step to getting Guam’s name out there again," said Tornito.
He also added that awareness is key to reviving these sacred creatures. "It’s through those efforts of getting to know the birds are the efforts that help us make the argument for bringing the birds back to Guam much stronger because people know the birds," he said.
"And I’ve been seeing more imagery in Guam that alongside the Ko’ko, the sihek has also been making an appearance in lots of art."
For now, the birds remain in cages. But every little impact helps. You can help by getting to know our Guam’s sihek on the Department of Agriculture's Instagram profile.