Lord Howe Island woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris)

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Lord Howe Island woodhen
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Lord Howe Island woodhen fact file

Lord Howe Island woodhen description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderGruiformes
FamilyRallidae
GenusGallirallus (1)

The Lord Howe woodhen, or Lord Howe rail, gets its name from its island home in the southwest Pacific (4). This flightless bird is olive-brown in colour with bright chestnut wings (5). The long curved bill is pinkish grey, the legs are dark grey and the eyes are red (2).

Also known as
Lord Howe rail.
Spanish
Rascón de Isla Lord Howe.
Size
Length: 46 cm (2)
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Lord Howe Island woodhen biology

Pairs mate for life and build nests in shallow depressions on the ground under thick vegetation (4). One to four eggs are laid in the breeding season, which occurs in late spring and the downy, black chicks hatch around a month later (6). Both parents assist with feeding the chicks and young of the previous brood may also remain on the territory, taking part in rearing the new hatchlings and in territorial defence (6).

Adults forage amongst leaf litter on the forest floor, feeding on worms, molluscs and invertebrates (5). The main predators of the Lord Howe woodhen are feral pigs and owls (4).

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Lord Howe Island woodhen range

Endemic to Lord Howe Island in the southwest Pacific off the mainland of Australia (4).

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Lord Howe Island woodhen habitat

When the island was discovered in 1788, the Lord Howe woodhen was found throughout the island, but from the mid-19th Century it became restricted to the mountaintops (4). At high altitudes this species inhabits gnarled mossy forest, which is unique to the mountain summits, and in the lowlands the preferred habitat is kentia palm (Howea fosterana) forest (5).

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Lord Howe Island woodhen status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Lord Howe Island woodhen threats

During the 19th Century, the population of Lord Howe woodhen was decimated by the introduction of predators and by habitat disturbance caused by settlers arriving on the island (4). Recent control measures mean that feral animals are not such a threat today, although the introduction of the Australian masked-owl (Tyto novaehollandiae castaneothorax) in an effort to control rat numbers in the 1920s is thought to have been responsible for a major decline in one population in 1989 (5). As it is restricted to a single island, the woodhen remains highly vulnerable to natural catastrophes or the accidental introduction of further non-native predators or disease (5).

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Lord Howe Island woodhen conservation

In the mid-1970s, the population of Lord Howe woodhen teetered on the brink of extinction as the population reached a new low of less than 30 individuals (4). Since that time, conservation efforts such as the removal of wild pigs and the release of captive-bred birds have helped this species to slowly recover. The population is now estimated at 130 birds (2002) and the local community is very involved with conservation efforts, which can minimise the threat of predation and disturbance by pet dogs (5). The trends in population numbers continue to be monitored but at this time the future looks encouraging for the Lord Howe woodhen.

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

For more information on the Lord Howe woodhen see:

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Authentication

Authenticated (17/1/01) by Chris Tzaros. Co-ordinator, Threatened Bird Network. Birds Australia (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union).
http://www.birdsaustralia.com.au

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone.
Molluscs
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.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Erritzoe, J. (1993) The Birds of CITES and How to Identify Them. The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge.
  3. CITES (October, 2002)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change (March, 2008)
    http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/plantsanimals/TheLordHoweIslandWoodhen.htm
  5. BirdLife International. (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
  6. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
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Image credit

Lord Howe Island woodhen  
Lord Howe Island woodhen

© Gary Bell / OceanwideImages.com

Oceanwide Images - Gary Bell
PO Box 280
Toormina
NSW 2452
Australia
Tel: +61 (2) 6658 5657
Fax: +61 (2) 6658 5659
request@oceanwideimages.com
http://www.oceanwideimages.com

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