Hawaii Biological Survey's


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44. Laysan Rail

Scientific name: Porzana palmeri

Classification: Phylum: Chordata. Class: Aves

Origin: Native

Status: Extinct

Distribution: Laysan and Lisianski (natural); Lisianski, Pearl & Hermes, and Midway (purposefully introduced)

Sound file: --

Map: --

This small, 6 inch-long rail was first seen in 1828 by Russian sailors on Laysan when they reported the same or a similar species on Lisianski. No specimens were collected until 1891 from Laysan. But by then they did not occur on Lisianski any longer.

Fearless and easy to catch, they foraged the ground for flies, moths, and scraps of meat from bird carcasses. They also had been reported as feeding on the eggs of other small birds such as petrels and terns. With the introduction of rabbitts destroying the vegetation on Laysan in the 1910s, they were released onto Lisianski, Pearl and Hermes, and Midway. They did well on Midway until the introduction of rats via Navy ships in 1943. The last rails were seen in June 1944. A survey in 1945 did not find any rails on any of the islands.


   Illustration from Rothschild (1893-1900)