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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, January 26, 2002

2 Pacific birds believed extinct

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

The brown tree snake may have been the final cause of extinction for the Guam broadbill.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday proposed removing the flycatcher from the national endangered species list, along with the Mariana mallard. Both birds have been missing from their Mariana Islands homes for close to two decades and are believed to be extinct.

While pesticides, disease and various introduced predators drove the broadbill to low numbers, biologists say they believe the arrival of the brown tree snake on the island finished them off.

Hawai'i wildlife officials are extremely concerned that if the snake gets established in Hawai'i, it could have similarly severe impacts on native birdlife.

The long, thin snake is elusive and feeds on all kinds of small animals, including birds, lizards and rodents. Mildly venomous, it also has been known to attack humans.

The Guam broadbill males were glossy blue-black birds, while females were brown-gray on top and white underneath. The birds were native to Guam.

The Mariana mallard had a larger range, being found on Guam, Tinian, Saipan and Rota. Hunting and habitat loss were listed as major factors in its decline.

The mallard had a gray-and-green head with a white collar, chestnut breast and white tail. Its bill was yellow and its legs were orange.

"We would much rather remove species from the list because their populations have recovered, but we also need to recognize when no hope of recovery exists," said Anne Badgley, Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Region director.