Native forest birds released on Guguan
May 23, 2016 — Biologists and field technicians from the CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources and the Division of Fish and Wildlife traveled to the northern CNMI island of Guguan earlier this month to release a 102 forest birds caught on Tinian. The team released 48 Bridled White-eyes and 54 Tinian Monarchs in an attempt to establish breeding populations on the island that is a safe-haven for birds threatened by invasive Brown Treesnakes. The snake has decimated Guam's bird populations and other forest species as well, causing cascading environmental effects that threaten to bring down Guam's native forests. About a hundred snakes have been sighted in the CNMI since becomine established on Guam but so far have not become established here.
The release is a proactive defensive strategy of the Mariana Avifauna Conservation (MAC) project and follows last year's release of about 100 of the same species on Guguan. The MAC project has also established breeding bird populations on the northern island of Sarigan and in a number of zoos on the U.S. mainland. The idea is to ensure that a source of our forest birds will exist should the Brown Treesnake do to the CNMI what it has done to Guam and we too lose our birds. One day, when the snake has been controled or erradicated from our islands, scientists hope to restablish them on our islands from these safeguarded populations.
The released birds were captured on Tinian by volunteers from Pacific Bird Conservation and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, who accompanied and cared for the caged birds on the boat to Guguan and provided veterinary support for the release.
While on Guguan, biologists conducted forest bird surveys that revealed that last year's released birds fared well despite a series of tropical storms and typhoons that passed through the Marianas shortly after the release. A number of young forest birds without the colorful leg bands that identify released birds were also seen. Since neither bird species existed on Guguan prior to the first release, these non-banded birds are the result of successful breeding by released birds. The 102 newly relased birds will add to the numbers of potential breeding pairs on the island. They will also increase genetic diversity in Guguan's new forest bird populations.
While on Guguan, biologists also conducted bio-inventory surveys of seabirds, bats, crabs, snails, reptiles and vegetation. These surveys add to data collected in previous years, allowing scientists to gauge the health and numbers of wildlife populations on the island.
The MAC project is a joint effort of the Division of Fish and Wildlife, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Bird Conservation and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It is run as a project under the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program.