Micronesian kingfisher study reveals interesting life
POHNPEI, Palikir (FSM Information Service): July 2000 - Divorce, house wrecking, flirtation, and raising the kids - sounds like a television soap opera. Well, it's is just part of what two scientists have discovered about the Micronesian Kingfisher, locally called the kutoahr on Pohnpei.
The kingfishers have been the subject of a study by Dylan Kesler, a graduate research assistant with Oregon State University and the United States Geological Survey's Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center. He is working on his masters of science degree by completing research that the USGS is interested in. Working with Kesler is Miguel Boriss, a volunteer field assistant for the project pursuing a bachelors of science degree also at OSU, though this is not part of his curriculum.
The two men have been seen walking around the College of Micronesia-FSM and National Capital regions wearing headphones and pointing funny looking antenna into the jungle. What they have been doing is tracking a number of kingfishers that they tagged last year and earlier this year in an effort to study just how these birds get along with each other. Their studies are expected to assist other scientists studying similar species, including those on Guam.
So far the scientists have banded 56 birds since January 1999. This number includes all those captured and banded in the nests. Following the 15 minutes it takes to band and record measures on the birds, the kingfishers are released back into the wild and become study subjects.
"To our knowledge, our work has not brought harm to any of those birds," wrote Kesler, July 19.
Kesler went on to say that in addition to the color bands, he and Miguel have radio-tagged 42 birds over a two-year period.
"The 1999 radios have run out of power and fallen off of the birds however, so we are only tracking 22 at present. Five of those are at the capital complex," wrote Kesler.
Why study the kingfisher?
According to Kesler, the Earth once had four distinct subspecies of the bird on Ryuku, Palau, Guam, and Pohnpei, but due to many factors the kingfishers in Ryuku and Guam have disappeared from the wild. Well, the information he and Boriss uncover might help restore the birds to Guam and Ryuku.
The kingfishers, which have a bad reputation on Pohnpei for chasing chickens, have been found to display quite complex social life, which has included marriage, divorce, flirting, and other courtship rituals.
The scientists report, also, that a female may chose her mate by how well he builds the house.
Since their arrival on Pohnpei, the two scientists have received a lot of guidance from Dr. Don Buden, a biologist at the College of Micronesia-FSM, and from long-time Pohnpei resident Bill Raynor, director of The Nature Conservancy.
Funding has been coming from a number of sources including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because of the applicability of this research to the recovery of the endangered Guam Micronesia kingfisher, the Disney Fund, and many zoos including the U.S. National Zoo, the St. Louis Zoo, Brookfield Zoon, and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
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