Laysan crake (Porzana palmeri)

Also known as: Laysan rail
GenusPorzana (1)
SizeLength: 15 cm (2)

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

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).

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).

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).

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).

This bird is now classified as extinct (1).

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)