Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Gruiformes Rallidae

Scientific Name: Habroptila wallacii
Species Authority: Gray, 1860
Common Name(s):
English Drummer Rail, Wallace's Rail
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
Identification information: 40 cm. Large, secretive, flightless rail. Very dark slate-grey throughout with browner wings, lower back and tail. Bright red bare parts, including eye-ring and frontal shield. Long and robust bill. Similar spp. Plain Bush-hen Amaurornis olivaceus is smaller, with shorter yellow bill and legs. Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio (recently discovered on Halmahera) is much larger and bluer, with shorter, thicker bill and conspicuous white undertail-coverts. Voice Low drumming interspersed with loud scream.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Emanuelson, E. & Poulsen, M.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Taylor, J., Tobias, J.
This enigmatic flightless rail is classified as Vulnerable because it has a small population, which is likely to be declining and undergoing fragmentation owing to the on-going loss of its specialised habitat. However, it is poorly known, and further surveys may reveal it to be more numerous and occur in a wider range of habitats than current information suggests.

Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Vulnerable (VU)
2004 Vulnerable (VU)
2000 Vulnerable (VU)
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (VU)
1988 Threatened (T)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Habroptila wallacii is endemic to the island of Halmahera in North Maluku, Indonesia (BirdLife International 2001), where it is known from only a handful of specimens and confirmed records, with the most recent report from 2003 (E. Emanuelson in litt. 2003). Its status is extremely difficult to judge given its skulking behaviour and unwelcoming habitat, and the paucity of records might reflect these factors rather than any genuine scarcity. However, there is danger in assuming this without acknowledging the possibility that the loss of Sago swamps and predation have had a serious impact in recent decades.

Countries occurrence:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2: 18200
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): No
Continuing decline in number of locations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: No
Upper elevation limit (metres): 700
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend Justification:  The species is suspected to be in decline owing to the loss of its habitat through commercial sago harvesting, as well as the potential impacts of alien predators and hunting.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 2500-9999 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
No. of subpopulations: 2-100 Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No All individuals in one subpopulation: No
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation: 1-89

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It is a flightless, and thus presumably strictly sedentary species, thought to inhabit dense, impenetrable, swampy thickets, particularly remote parts of sago swamp, apparently also favouring swamp edges at the interface with deciduous foothill-forest, although not penetrating the latter. Calls attributed (perhaps erroneously) to this species were heard in tall reeds (Saccharum sp.), alang-alang grassland (Imperata sp.), overgrown native plantations, sweet potato and cassava fields adjacent to forest and stream habitats (E. Emanuelson in litt. 2003), and mangrove (Gymnorhiza sp.).

Systems: Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Unknown
Generation Length (years): 3.7
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat loss and fragmentation is probably the main threat, and it has possibly declined considerably given that sago swamps on Halmahera have been extensively destroyed through commercial sago extraction, irrigation schemes, conversion for wet rice and, potentially, fishpond development. Moreover, flightless rails confined to single islands have a long history of extinction through predation by introduced species. Indeed, the species is apparently occasionally caught by dogs when local people are hunting deer and pigs.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
None is known. A large protected area is proposed for Halmahera, encompassing 3,550 km2 of all representative forest-types on the island, between Lalobata and Ake Tajawe, although it is not clear whether this includes suitable habitat or known localities for H. wallacii. Extensive effort has gone in to interviewing local people about the species and its possible whereabouts, without any confirmed records to date (M. Poulsen in litt. 2007).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Identify all remaining areas of sago swamp and conduct surveys for this species therein (using tape-playback of its vocalisations, if available, to aid detection). Investigate claims that it frequents a variety of other habitats. Determine and implement appropriate conservation action, including establishment of any remnant sago swamps, or other key sites, as strictly protected areas.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2012. Habroptila wallacii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T22692781A37894228. . Downloaded on 07 October 2015.
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