Rouget’s rail (Rougetius rougetii)

Synonyms: Rallus rougetii
French: Râle de Rouget
GenusRougetius (1)
SizeLength: 30 cm (2)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

A secretive and terrestrial bird, like other rails (3), Rouget’s rail has olive-brown upperparts and cinnamon-reddish-orange underparts. The white underside of the tail stands out clearly against the rest of the plumage. While males and females are similar in appearance, immature Rouget’s rails are paler than the adults, with brown eyes and a brown bill (2). The loud, ringing, repeated ‘wreee-creeeuw’ call of the Rouget’s rail is most often heard in the morning and evening, and it also has a shrill, piercing ‘dideet’ or ‘di-dii’ alarm call (2).

Occurs in the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea (2) (4).

Rouget’s rail inhabits marshy areas in montane grassland and moorland, where it is found in lush grass, reeds and bushes besides pools and streams, and in bogs, between 1,500 and 4,100 metres above sea level. It can also be found on dry ground and in human-modified habitats such as parks and gardens (2) (4).

Rouget’s rail is a monogamous bird (4), which lays a clutch of four to five eggs between March and October (2). The nest is a pad of dead rushes, hidden amongst rushes on wet ground, or in rushes over the water (2). The female has been observed incubating the eggs, although it is thought that the male may also partake in this activity, and both parents tend the chicks until they are fully grown. One Rouget’s rail chick was seen accompanied by ten adults, suggesting that some co-operative breeding may take place in this species (2).

Rouget’s rail has a fairly wide and varied diet, including seeds, aquatic insects, crustaceans and small snails, which it searches for amongst grass, on bare mud or as it hops from stone to stone in shallow water (2).

Although the Rouget’s rail is not yet considered to be threatened with extinction, numbers of this terrestrial bird have declined (4). This is due to the rapid modification of its habitat (4); a result of intensive grazing in marshlands, the conversion of grasslands to cereal cultivation (2), and the extraction of natural materials for building in the densely populated Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands (4). Furthermore, recent droughts may have also negatively affected this African species (2).

There are no conservation measures currently known to be in place for this species. BirdLife International have recommended that regular population surveys should be undertaken, rates of habitat loss within the rail’s range should be monitored, and areas of vital habitat should be protected (4).

For further information on Rouget’s rail see:

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:

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2007)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Allaby, M. (1991) Dictionary of Zoology. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. BirdLife International (June, 2008)