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GALLERIES > BIRDS > GRUIFORMES > RALLIDAE > WAKE ISLAND RAIL [Gallirallus wakensis]


Wake Island Rail Picture
 
 

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SPECIES INFO

The extinct Wake Island Rail (Gallirallus wakensis) was a flightless rail and the only native land bird on the Pacific atoll of Wake. It was found on the islands of Wake and Wilkes, but not on Peale, which is separated from the others by a channel of about 100 meters.

Description

The adult bird had a length of 22 cm. The wing spread was between 8.5 and 10 cm. The length of the tail was 4.5 cm. The culmen was between 2.5 and 2.9 cm and the length of the tarsus was 3.3 to 3.7 cm. It was closely related to the Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis) from the Philippines, which is able to fly. Its appearance was dark greyish brown on the upperparts as well as on the crown, the lores and the cheeks. It was also characterized by ash brown underparts with striking narrow white bars on the belly, the breast, and the flanks. The upper throat and the chin were whitish. A grey superciliary was drawn from the chin over the top of the eyes to the bill. The bill, legs and feet had a brown hue.

Ecology

The ecology of this species is poorly known. It was numerous at the time of Lionel Walter Rothschild's first scientific description in 1903. The Wake Island Rail inhabited Cordia subcordata scrubs and fed on mollusks, insects and worms. Since its habitat offered no natural source of fresh water, it is assumed that the bird was able to subsist without drinking.

The Wake Island Rail lived on Wake and Wilkes islands

The breeding period started with courtship and copulations in late July, with actual nesting not taking place until mid-August. When ornithologist Alexander Wetmore observed this species in 1923, he described it as very curious but quick to flee into cover when disturbed. Its call consisted of a gentle cluck or a low chattering sound.

Extinction

The Wake Island Rail became a victim of World War II. It was hunted and eaten to extinction after the Japanese forces who occupied this island in 1941 became cut off from the supply route in 1944. Because of its flightlessness and curiosity it was easy for just two men to catch them barehanded. The last rail was killed in 1945 by the starving soldiers.





                                     



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