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12 surprising flightless birds

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on June 2, 2017, 11:34 a.m.
Like many flightless bird species, the Guam rail is now extinct in the wild.

Photo: Greg Hume/Wikipedia

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Guam rail

The Guam rail was once abundant on the island of Guam but in the 1960s, a population of accidentally introduced brown tree snakes took hold on the island and the numbers of Guam rail dropped. These birds nest on the ground and that, combined with their inability to escape via flight, meant that they didn't stand a chance against the new predators. By the 1980s they were extinct in the wild.

The species can still be seen today, though, thanks to zoologist Bob Beck, who worked for more than 20 years on capturing the last of the wild Guam rails, creating captive breeding programs in zoos, and releasing Guam rails on nearby islands. In November 2010, 16 Guam rails were reintroduced to Cocos Island and through careful monitoring, the reintroduction seems to be successful. With luck and a lot of continued conservation work, the population of Guam rails can take hold and perhaps one day the species will no longer be considered extinct in the wild.