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MU researcher works to save one of the world's most endangered birds
Date:3/21/2011

COLUMBIA, Mo. The Tuamotu Kingfisher is a multicolored, tropical bird with bright blue feathers, a dusty orange head, and a bright green back. The entire population of these birds less than 125 lives on one tiny island in the south Pacific, and without serious intervention, they will no longer exist. One University of Missouri researcher is trying to stop the birds' extinction by working with farmers and residents on the island inhabited by the kingfishers.

"If we lose these birds, we lose 50,000 years of uniqueness and evolution," said Dylan Kesler, assistant professor in fisheries and wildlife at the University of Missouri's School of Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "Because it has lived in isolation for a very long time, it's unlike any other bird. There is no other bird like this on the planet."

In new studies published in the journal The Auk (published by the American Ornithologists Union) and the Journal of Wildlife Management, Kesler and his team of researchers have uncovered important information to help ensure the birds' survival and a unique way to attach radio transmitters to the birds to track them.

To survive, the kingfishers need several specific habitat characteristics:

  • Hunting Perches about 5 feet off the ground The birds hunt by "pouncing." They watch their prey and then fall on them from hunting perches about 5 feet high. Without the perches in broadleaf trees at the appropriate height, the birds have no way to hunt.

  • Exposed ground the birds' food consists mainly of lizards, which are easier to spot where the ground is clear of vegetation. When coconut farmers conduct intermediate burns on their land which are hot enough to kill brush, but do not lead to widespread fires or kill the lizards it exposes more ground and the birds can see the lizards.

  • Dead trees for nesting the birds create nests by flying into dead trees and hollowing
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Contact: Christian Basi
BasiC@missouri.edu
573-882-4430
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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