Laysan crake (Porzana palmeri)

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Laysan crake, taken in 1913
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Laysan crake fact file

Laysan crake description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderGruiformes
FamilyRallidae
GenusPorzana (1)

The Laysan crake went extinct in 1944 following human disturbance and the introduction of non-native species. It was brown on the back with black streaks. The underparts were grey and the undertail was chestnut with black and white bars. The eyes were red, the bill yellow, and the legs greenish (3).

Also known as
Laysan rail.
Size
Length: 15 cm (2)
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Laysan crake biology

This small, flightless member of the rail family was very rapid on the ground (3), and would feed opportunistically on invertebrates and the eggs of seabirds. It was an aggressive feeder and would defend its prey from other bird species, particularly the Laysan finch (2). It called in chorus at night; pinging, rattling and warbling (3).

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Laysan crake range

Endemic to Laysan Island in the Hawaiian archipelago, the Laysan crake briefly occupied several other Hawaiian Islands in the years before its extinction, as attempts were made to conserve it via translocations (1).

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Laysan crake habitat

Previously found amongst grass tussocks and thickets on Laysan Island, a site considered to be a very important seabird colony, as well as previously being home to five endemic land birds (2).

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Laysan crake status

The Laysan crake is classified as Extinct (EX) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Extinct

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Laysan crake threats

The Laysan crake was initially threatened by the habitat destruction caused by rabbits and guinea pigs that were introduced by guano diggers. The rabbits ate the entire vegetation cover on Laysan Island, leaving a dusty terrain that prompted the extinction of several endemic species and subspecies, as it reduced the availability of insect prey. The Laysan crake went extinct on Laysan Island in the 1920s. However, it had already been introduced to the Midway Atoll in 1891, and following its eradication on Laysan, plans were set in motion to introduce it, along with the Laysan finch, to several of the main islands of Hawaii and to reintroduce it to Laysan Island. However, concerns over the possibility that the Laysan finch might prove to be a pest elsewhere halted the move of both species. The Laysan crake remained on Midway Atoll only until the Second World War, when in 1943, a US Navy landing craft drifted ashore, releasing black rats on to the island. The rats preyed upon the crake and within two years it was extinct (2). Before the extinction of the Laysan crake, its previous habitat on Laysan Island had been fully restored, and the rabbits eradicated (3).

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Laysan crake conservation

This bird is now classified as extinct (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Guano
Accumulated droppings found where large colonies of animals such as seals, bats or birds occur; it is rich in nutrients.
Invertebrate
Animals with no backbone.
Reintroduction
Putting an animal or plant into an area where the species or sub-species previously lived but from which they are locally extinct - usually referring to projects aiming to re-establish self-perpetuating populations.
Subspecies
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.
Translocation
The transfer of individuals from one area for release or planting in another.
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Image credit

Laysan crake, taken in 1913  
Laysan crake, taken in 1913

© Alfred M. Bailey / Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Image Archives, Denver Museum of Nature and Science
2001 Colorado Boulevard
Denver
Colorado
80205-5798
United States of America
Liz.Clancy@dmns.org
http://www.dmns.org

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