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Check out our Guam Kingfisher!

What makes our Guam Kingfishers so special you may ask...

Tracy Aviary welcomed a new species in March of 2015; the Guam Kingfisher.  They are part of the AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP). The SSP works with zoos, certified facilities, and sustainability partners across the country in managing typically threated or endangered species that are exhibited in AZA-accredited Zoos and Aquariums. Guam kingfishers are extinct in the wild due to the accidental introduction of the brown tree snake onto the island of Guam.  Guam kingfishers are with us today due to the efforts of AZA zoos and their partners.  There are 160 birds in captivity. Tracy Aviary hopes to breed this pair with the plan for the offspring to be part of a united effort where they will be released into a neighboring island of Guam within the next 5 years. Guam kingfishers are sexually dimorphic, meaning the males and females are different in color.  The males have cinnamon colored feathers on their chest where the females have white feathers on their chest.  Here at Tracy Aviary they eat a combination of Anoles (shipped in from Florida), prepared pork diet, crickets and mealworms. You can see these beautiful birds in our new Treasures of the Rainforest exhibit. This exhibit makes housing these birds in a breeding situation possible.  The consistent temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity or more make it a perfect climate for the birds.  With all of the lush plantings and trees the habitat gives them the security in knowing they can raise offspring in this space.

EGGcellent News, The Guam Kingfishers are on Eggs!

We are happy to announce that our Guam kingfishers are incubating eggs.  This will be a second clutch for the pair.  A clutch is a term used to describe a set of eggs a female bird will lay in a given time frame. Guam kingfishers only lay 2 eggs per clutch.  The pair’s first eggs were not fertile but they have made great progress since they first arrived at the aviary.  They haven’t even been in the new exhibit for a year so the aviculturists are happy with the behaviors the birds have displayed, indicating they are comfortable in their space and feel safe enough to incubate eggs. Soon we will be checking the eggs to see if they are fertile.  We do this by holding a flashlight up to the eggs, the white egg shell protects the developing embryo but also has a certain amount of transparency when a light is held up to the egg. It is common for eggs to not be fertile or even hatch. A great example of this is your average household chicken eggs.  Birds will always lay eggs; this is a natural process for them. Did you know there are 4 distinguishable parts to an egg that you can identify in your own kitchens? The albumen is the egg whites of an egg. Albumen is a source of protein and nutrients that we utilize when we eat eggs but also helps the chick develop and grow. The Yolk is the source for more protein, vitamins, minerals, and fats; this is the primary source of nutrition for a growing chick. The stringy white parts that you see in an egg are called the Chalazae.  If the egg is fertile these help support the growing embryo within the egg. And don’t forget the egg shell! The egg shell protects the growing embryo from disease but also allows air and moisture through to help the growing chick as well!  Eggs are amazing! 

Nest Boxes are for the Birds!

Our Guam kingfishers are very dedicated to their nest. Both the male and female rotate sitting on the eggs. Guam kingfishers are cavity nesters.  Both birds will work to excavate a cavity in a tall tree or coconut palm by flying straight at the potential site and using their beaks to chip away at the tree. They were known to excavate many options in the wild before choosing a place to nest. We provided two options for our kingfishers.  One is a palm log mounted on one of the walls of the exhibit. (Palm logs are quite rare here in Utah, so this one was brought all the way from Las Vegas!) The other nest option is a nest box made by our wonderful Facilities department. To make the nest box more natural looking and private for the birds our amazing Horticulture staff hung Orchids around the box.  To stimulate this behavior the keepers packed the artificial nest box with mulch and shavings so the birds could work on clearing it out and making the space their own!  Talk about a team effort for these birds. Here in Utah we have a lot of cavity nesters who either make their own cavities or utilize abandoned cavities.  A great example of this is the Western Screech Owl, you can see this species here at Tracy Aviary in our Owl Forest exhibit.  Western screech owls will utilize old tree cavities for nesting. You can help them out by providing artificial nest boxes much like the one we built for the kingfishers. See www.allaboutbirds.org for details on nest box designs.

Tracy Aviary just hatched its first Guam kingfisher!  It is being raised by its parents behind the scenes in our Aviculture Holding building.  This building plays an important role in the functioning of our bird care department. It provides spaces for cold sensitive birds during the winter and it is home to some species of birds that may not be as comfortable raising offspring on exhibit. This space is designed to provide all of the important elements to keep our birds safe and happy.  The building is temperature controlled,  has sky lights to allow UV light and fresh air into the indoor space and its location provides the privacy that some individuals need at certain times of the year. It also has outdoor exhibits that are connected to the indoor space, making it a largely versatile and valuable resource to Tracy Aviary. This building has given us the opportunity to house a second pair of Guam kingfishers (the other pair is on exhibit in our Treasures of the Rainforest exhibit).  The chick will continue to be raised by its parents but Keeper Staff will continue to keep a close eye on this chick and its progress!

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