Micronesian Kingfisher Chick

-By Kimberly Lengel, Philadelphia Zoo

Curator of Birds, Aliza Baltz, shared photos of our Micronesian kingfisher chick from hatching to recent fledging on Day 41. The chick was hand-reared by Bird keeper staff.

Our pair of Micronesian kingfishers in the Islands exhibit at MAC successfully produced their first chick! The single egg was laid on June 28 in a specially-designed palm log “nest box.” In the wild, Micronesian kingfishers excavate nest cavities in rotting palm logs by flying at the log and chipping away pieces of wood with their beaks, one chip at a time. Our kingfishers were aided in this task by the keepers who predrilled the log and then stuffed it with pine shavings so that the kingfishers could still go through the motions of hollowing it out. Our internal observations and those of others studying Micronesian kingfishers indicate that hollowing out their nest cavity is an integral part of a successful breeding ritual for Micronesian kingfisher pairs.

Both parents took turns incubating the egg. Keepers Andrea Hirsch and Toni Flowers remained relatively hands-off but did candle the egg several times to ensure it was developing normally. Candling involves carefully shining a bright light onto the egg. The shell is thin enough that the developing embryo inside can be observed. About 3 weeks into the incubation process, keepers began looking for signs of hatching. When they saw them, they removed the egg and placed it in an incubator/hatcher to complete the hatching process. The chick began the hatching process on July 19 and completely hatched overnight between July 20-21.

The chick is being reared by the Andrea and Toni and is readily taking food and doing well. Since this is the first chick from this pair of birds, handrearing was recommended to maximize its chances of survival.

Micronesian kingfishers are a signature conservation species for the Philadelphia Zoo. Extinct in the wild, these birds were saved by a coalition of zoos lead by our own Zoo. Beth Bahner has coordinated the kingfisher recovery program for over 25 years and Barbara Toddes and Aliza Baltz have both been involved in saving
kingfishers for over 15 years.

This chick is the first hatched at the Zoo since 2003 when we began transitioning out of the old Bird House in anticipation of the construction of MAC. We will keep you updated on its progress and circulate additional adorable baby photos.


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