Todiramphus cinnamominus

Sihek (Guam kingfisher)

It has been over 30 years since the sihek, or Guam (Micronesian) kingfisher, was last seen in the wild, but thanks to conservation breeding, there is still hope for this species. Restoring this species is both ecologically and culturally important as the sihek has profound spiritual significance for the Indigenous Chamorro people of Guam.

The situation

Restoring a species lost in the wild

Sihek were eliminated from their native habitat on the island of Guam by the brown tree snake, an invasive species. Fortunately, 29 individuals were brought into captive breeding programs before they were extirpated. Only about half of those individuals would go on to breed successfully under managed breeding programs which has resulted in problems related to inbreeding depression. Inbreeding depression reduces genetic diversity and reduces the overall health and survival of a population.

Our work

The Wilder Institute, with over 20 years of experience working and advising on conservation translocation projects around the world, provided guidance and training that will contribute to the success of this initiative.

Our conservation impact

The Wilder Institute worked with key stakeholders to explore the feasibility of restoring Micronesian kingfishers, like the Guam kingfisher, in the wild. From 2016 to 2018, we helped to facilitate three planning workshops for this species in Hawaii, Guam, and at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo. This work and our expertise in conservation translocations has led to our involvement in a specialist recovery team for the sihek.

We co-authored a paper on multiple life-stage inbreeding depression, demonstrating it is possible to increase the captive sihek population to a point where individuals could be released into the wild despite the impact of inbreeding depression to date. Read the paper here.

If recovery is possible for sihek, it provides hope for the restoration of other extinct-in-the-wild species in the future.

Did you know?

Sihek excavate their own nest cavities in soft rotten trees.

They feed entirely on animal matter including lizards, skinks, geckos, insects, annelids, and small crustaceans. It feeds mainly upon prey that is on the ground unlike the belted kingfisher found in Canada.