Guam’s endangered såli population growing

April 11, 2021
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The ongoing efforts to eradicate the brown tree snake on Guam have contributed to the growth in the population of the såli, or Micronesian starling, one of Guam’s last surviving native bird species.

A recent study revealed an increase in the population of 15 times what it was when the last survey was conducted in the early 1990s.

The results of the study were published March 1 in the Cambridge University Press by Henry S. Pollock, Martin Kastner, Gary J. Wiles, Hugo Thierry, Laura Barnhart Duenas, Eben H. Paxton, Nicole M. Suckow, Jeff Quitugua and Haldre S. Rogers.

About 95% of the population is concentrated in the main developed area of Andersen Air Force Base.

“Såli are also in the process of recolonizing urbanized areas elsewhere in northern and central Guam, where the species has been absent since the expansion of brown tree snakes in the 1970s and early 1980s,” the publication states.

The most sightings off the military base were noted to be in Tamuning-Tumon-Harmon, Hagåtña, Yigo and Dededo, and involved small groups of birds.

“Additionally, birds were only reliably present at large shopping malls except in Hagåtña, and sightings from other locations may have been transient, especially given the high mobility of the species. For these reasons, we cannot rule out the possibility that såli presence in this region of the island remains strongly dependent on birds dispersing from the AAFB population, which likely functions as a source population for areas farther south,” the publication states.

Experts report that ongoing snake control measures and the såli’s adaptation to urban habitats are likely responsible for the species’ partial population recovery on the island.

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