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Sunday, April 20, 2014

CNMI’s Mariana mallard now extinct

Mariana mallard Two Mariana bird species—including one that used to inhabit Saipan, Tinian and Rota—are now extinct.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Mariana mallard and the Guam broadbill as extinct, removing both species from the federal list of threatened and endangered species.

The CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife reportedly agreed with the USFWS’ decision to delist the two bird species.

Kenneth Foote, information and education specialist at the USFWS in Hawaii, said the Mariana mallard was last seen on Saipan in 1979. The bird was last seen on Tinian in 1974 and Guam in 1967, he added.

Foote described the Mariana mallard as a large duck with a grayish and green head separated from a chestnut breast by a white collar, a white tail, yellow bill and orange legs. The bird was endemic to the CNMI’s three major islands and Guam, he said.

Although the USFWS said the exact cause of the bird’s extinction remains unknown, possible factors include massive loss of suitable wetland habitat and years of unregulated hunting.

The Guam broadbill was a small flycatcher that used to inhabit Guam, Foote said. He described the male broadbill as glossy blue-black in color, while the female was brownish gray above and white below and had variable amounts of buff tinge on its breast.

The broadbill became listed on the endangered species list on Aug. 27, 1984. Less than a hundred broadbills inhabited the Pajon Basin in northern Guam at the time of the listing.

The USFWS said the abundance of brown tree snakes on Guam could have contributed to the bird’s extinction.

“Although these two species have been lost forever, we can learn from this experience,” said David B. Allen, the USFWS’ Pacific Region director. “We need to renew our efforts to conserve and protect the habitats that our native species rely upon for their survival, and that includes controlling, if not eliminating, invasive species.”

Over 1,300 species have been listed as endangered or threatened in the last 30 years. Nine species have been declared extinct, including the Mariana mallard and the Guam broadbill.

Besides the mallard and the broadbill, the extinct list includes two other birds—the dusky seaside sparrow and the Santa Barbara song sparrow—and five fishes, including the longjaw cisco, the amistad gambusia, the Sampson’s pearly mussel, the blue pike and the Tacopa pupfish.

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