Extinct-In-The-Wild Bird Hatches at Smithsonian

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Keepers artificially incubated the egg and are hand-raising the chick. Chris Crowe/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

The Guam kingfisher is an interesting bird. It's known for a distinct, loud call and an aggressive nature when defending its nesting territory. The bird makes its nest by jabbing over and over at a tree with its beak while flying.

Once found only on the island of Guam, the brightly feathered bird is now extinct in the wild and is one of the most endangered bird species on the planet.

But a tiny Guam kingfisher chick is happily eating chopped mice and crickets, mealworms and anoles after hatching May 17 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. The female is the first to have hatched in four years at the facility. According to the Smithsonian, there are only about 140 Guam kingfishers in the world, and all of them live in captivity.

Because the birds are so territorial, it's difficult to match breeding pairs. This chick's parents came to the institute from the St. Louis Zoo. This was the first fertile egg that they produced. Because the birds didn't demonstrate proper parenting behaviors, keepers chose to artificial incubate the egg and are hand-raising the chick.

Tracking the chick's development

Guam kingfisher
The Guam kingfisher chick rests in a keeper's hand just one day after hatching. Erica Royer/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

During incubation, keepers shined a light against the shell of the eggs to watch as the chick grew. After 22 days, the chick hatched, weighing a mere 5.89 grams (.2 ounces).

For the first week, keepers fed the chick every two hours. They slowly have begun to decrease the number of feedings. When the chick is 30 days old, it should be ready to fledge the nest.

All living Guam kingfishers are descended from just 29 individuals. They were taken from the wild in the 1980s to U.S. zoos to create a breeding program to save the species from extinction. The last sighting of a Guam kingfisher in the wild was in 1988, according to the National Aviary.

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute hatched its first chick in 1985; since then, 19 chicks have hatched there. The Guam kingfisher is the most endangered species living at the institute.

Here's what the chick should grow up to look like:

Guam kingfisher adult
The Guam kingfishers looks more stately with its full plumage as an adult. Michael Fitzsimmons/Shutterstock