Tuesday 21 May
Lord Howe Island woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris)
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Lord Howe Island woodhen fact file
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Lord Howe Island woodhen description
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.
- Rascón de Isla Lord Howe.
- Length: 46 cm (2)
BirdLife International’s World Bird Database:
- BirdLife International (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Animals with no backbone.
- 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.
IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
- Erritzoe, J. (1993) The Birds of CITES and How to Identify Them. The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge.
CITES (October, 2002)
New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change (March, 2008)
- BirdLife International. (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
- 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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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).Top
Lord Howe Island woodhen rangeTop
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).Top
Lord Howe Island woodhen statusTop
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).Top
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.Top
Find out more
For more information on the Lord Howe woodhen see:
Authenticated (17/1/01) by Chris Tzaros. Co-ordinator, Threatened Bird Network. Birds Australia (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union).
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