Extremely Rare Guam Rails Hatch at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo
by Smithsonian staff
March 2012 - As Washington, D.C.’s unseasonably warm winter turns into spring, a baby boom is underway at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Two Guam rail (Gallirallus owstoni) chicks hatched March 3 and 4; they join six others in the Zoo’s collection—three of which live at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. This brings the total population of these small, flightless birds to 162 individuals. Each hatching is significant—the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists these birds as extinct in the wild.
In about six weeks, keepers will separate the chicks from their parents, and Zoo veterinarians will perform a routine medical exam and take feather samples to determine their sexes.
To date, 82 chicks have hatched at the Zoo and SCBI, and each provides scientists with the opportunity to learn about the growth, reproduction, health and behavior of the species. The Zoo sent 29 Guam rails to the government of Guam for release and breeding, and an additional 25 birds have gone to other institutions to breed…
(read more: Smithsonian Science) (photos: Jim Jenkins)