Tuesday 21 May
Buff-banded rail (Gallirallus philippensis)
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Buff-banded rail fact file
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Buff-banded rail description
With a global distribution comprising numerous islands, the buff-banded rail exhibits substantial geographic variation, evidenced in the recognition of up to 26 subspecies. However, all the subspecies share a number of common traits that distinguish the species, as a whole, from other similar looking rails (2). The head is distinctly patterned with chestnut and grey, while the upperparts and wing-feathers are variably spotted and barred rufous, blackish and white (2) (3). The chin is white, the throat grey, the breast normally banded buff, and the underparts intricately barred black and white. Both sexes have a similar plumage, a pink bill, and pinkish-grey legs, but the female may be slightly smaller than the male. Juveniles are duller than the adults, with a less distinct head pattern and a grey-black bill (2).
- Also known as
- Banded land rail, banded rail, buff banded rail.
- Rallus philippensis.
- Râle tiklin.
- Length: 25 - 33 cm (2)
- National Recovery Plan for the Buff Banded Rail (Cocos (Keeling) Islands)
- BirdLife International:
- Cold-blooded vertebrates of the class Amphibia, such as frogs or salamanders, which characteristically hatch as aquatic larvae with gills. The larvae then transform into adults with air-breathing lungs.
- Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
- The act of keeping eggs warm so that development is possible.
- A diverse group of invertebrates, mainly marine, that have one or all of the following; a horny, toothed ribbon in the mouth (the radula), a shell covering the upper surface of the body, and a mantle or mantle cavity with a type of gill. Includes snails, slugs, shellfish, octopuses and squid.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
- IUCN Red List (April, 2009)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Strange, M. (2003) A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Indonesia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
- BirdLife International (April, 2009)
- Commonwealth of Australia. (2005) National Recovery Plan for the Buff-banded Rail (Cocos (Keeling) Islands) Gallirallus philippensis andrewsi. Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra.
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Buff-banded rail biology
The buff-banded rail is an omnivorous feeder with an extremely varied diet that includes worms, molluscs, crustaceans, insects, spiders, small fish, amphibians, bird and turtle eggs, chicks of other birds, carrion, fruits, seeds and other plant matter (2). Although known to feed at all times of day, this rail generally concentrates its efforts around dusk and dawn (2) (3). Most prey is captured by a quick stab with a slightly open bill, or alternatively it will peck at food items such as snail shells until they crack open (2).
Breeding occurs at different times of the year in various parts of the buff-banded rail’s range, but has been recorded year round in the tropics. The nest is built in, or under, dense vegetation such as long grass, reeds, rushes, shrubs and trees. The female usually lays between four to eight eggs in the nest, which are subsequently incubated by both parents for around 18 to 19 days before hatching. The chicks are fed and cared for by both parents until they are evicted from the nest at five to nine weeks old. At two months old, the chicks are able to fly, and probably breed when just a year old (2).Top
Buff-banded rail rangeTop
Buff-banded rail habitat
Found in and around a wide range of wetland habitats including marshes, swamps, lakes, pans, rivers, estuaries, lagoons, mangrove swamps, salt-marsh and mudflats, and generally favours areas with dense vegetation such as tall grass, rushes and reeds (2).Top
Buff-banded rail status
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Buff-banded rail threats
Although the buff-banded rail is not globally threatened (4), several subspecies have either already become extinct or are extremely vulnerable in the wild (2). In particular, the subspecies Gallirallus philippensis andrewsi on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands has been extirpated by cats, rats, hunting and habitat destruction from all but one island in the atoll where the population is estimated to number just 850 to 1000 individuals (2) (5).Top
Buff-banded rail conservation
There are currently no conservation measures in place for the species as a whole, but efforts are being made to protect threatened buff-banded rail populations in parts of its range. For instance, subsequent to the Australian Government’s classification of the Cocos buff-banded rail (G. p. andrewsi) as Endangered, a recovery plan has been established for this subspecies. This proposes the continued protection of the surviving population, and the eradication of rats and cats from another suitable island in the atoll, with the view to carrying out a re-introduction program (5).Top
Find out more
To find out more about the conservation of the Cocos buff-banded rail see:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
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