Without drastic measures the Tuamotu Kingfisher will go extinct. The entire population of this beautiful multicoloured bird lives on one small island in the south Pacific, and consists of less than 125 specimens. According to Dylan Kesler, researcher of the University of Missouri, there is no other bird like the Tuamotu Kingfisher on the planet, because it has lived in isolation for a very long time on Niau, one of the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia.
He is dedicated to save this bird species from extinction as 50,000 years of uniqueness and evolution will be lost if man is not able to safeguard this bird’s existence. Together with his research team he unraveled part of the puzzle, the habitat requirements, which could lead to a feasible survival plan. Coconut farmers are an important part of this plan. The specific habitat characteristics of this Kingfisher helped to identify a few challenging options. The farmers could help to create good nesting sites by not cutting down dead coconut trees, because only these are soft enough for the birds to build a nest in. Even more fascinating is the request to the farmers to burn their land to clear the ground of vegetation, and expose the ground and lizards, the preferred food of the Kingfisher. These should be intermediate burns, which are hot enough to destroy shrubs but will not turn into widespread fires that kill lizards.
Apart from this, the reseach also provided information about bird movements, critical resources, breeding biology, and population demography, which underpinned the necessity and the knowledge to establish a second “rescue” population on another island.
Despite the work so far, the population is still decreasing, and at this rate the Tuamotu Kingfisher will be gone within our lifetime according Dr. Kesler.
Pictures, copyright by Curators of the University of Missouri