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Slender-billed Flufftail Sarothrura watersi
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This species is classified as Endangered because its population is estimated to be very small, severely fragmented and suspected to be declining as a result of the continuing exploitation of its habitat.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

14-17 cm. Tiny rail, with slim body and bill. Males are rufous, darker on mantle and wings and paler on throat and central belly. Females are greyish-brown, slightly barred darker on rear flanks and on tail, and paler on belly. Similar spp. Male distinguished from Madagascar Flufftail S. insularis by lack of black on upperparts and belly, female by lack of streaking on back and underparts. From all other rails by tiny size and rufous coloration. Voice Call is a rhythmic, repeated chong-ga-chonk and variants. Hints Call is only realistic way of locating species.

Distribution and population
Sarothrura watersi has been recorded reliably from only three well-separated areas in eastern Madagascar. If 1970-1971 records from the Antananarivo district are discounted as erroneous, the remaining sites are "south-east Betsileo" in 1875, near Analamazaotra in 1928, near Andapa in 1930, Ranomafana/Vohiparara since 1988 and Torotorofotsy marsh since 1997. All sites are in, or adjacent to, mid-altitude rainforest. Its marshland habitat is widely but very patchily distributed (Wilmé and Langrand 1990; ZICOMA 1999) and it may yet occur at other sites, having been overlooked due to its extremely secretive behaviour (Morris and Hawkins 1998). Nevertheless, very little suitable habitat is likely to remain (P. B. Taylor in litt. 1999), and its total population may number considerably less than 1,000 individuals (Taylor and van Perlo 1998).

Population justification
Although the species may be overlooked, owing to its very secretive behaviour, very little suitable habitat is likely to remain (P. B. Taylor in litt. 1999) and its total population may number considerably fewer than 1,000 individuals, thus a range of 250-999 mature individuals is assigned to the species. This equates to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded to 350-1,500 individuals here.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to be in decline owing to the ongoing conversion of marshes for cultivation, mostly as rice paddies (Langrand and Goodman 1995), although the likely rate of decline has not been estimated.

Behaviour The species is presumed to be sedentary in the absence of any evidence of movements (Taylor and van Perlo 1998; del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is incredibly difficult to see (Langrand 1990), but has a fairly loud and distinctive call, given most frequently between October and February. It may thus breed during the rainy season, but its breeding behaviour is otherwise unknown (Langrand 1990). Habitat This is an aquatic species which is largely confined to permanent, montane marshland which is shallowly flooded, at least seasonally, and dominated by dense, short grasses, with scattered clumps of thin-stemmed sedges and rushes (Cyperus, Schoenoplectus) (P. B. Taylor in litt. 1999). It prefers wetlands with adjacent dense, grassy terrain or even rice paddies, near rainforest at altitudes of 950-1800m (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). It is possible that it may also occur in overgrown, weedy, disused agricultural land and the scrubby edges of marshes (Taylor and van Perlo 1998. Diet Its diet is unknown (Langrand 1990; Taylor and van Perlo 1998; del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site Its nest, nest site and eggs are unknown (Langrand 1990; Taylor and van Perlo 1998; del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Most grass-dominated marshes on the eastern plateau of Madagascar are heavily used and exploited, especially for cultivating rice, the staple diet of the rapidly increasing human population (Langrand and Goodman 1995).

Conservation Actions Underway
Ranomafana has been a National Park since 1987, but there is no protection specifically for wetlands in eastern Madagascar (Stattersfield et al. 1998). The Malagasy government has ratified the Ramsar Convention, which came into force for the country in 1999. Ramsar site status has benefited the conservation of at least one site where the species occurs, Torotorofotsy Marsh, and the convention could be of additional importance to the species if it is found in the watershed of Lake Alaotra (O. Langrand in litt. 2007). Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey the distribution and population at all known and possible sites of occurrence (Langrand and Wilmé 1993). Evaluate sites suitable for protection (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Assess the feasibility of conducting research into the species's ecology and life history.

Collar, N. J.; Stuart, S. N. 1985. Threatened birds of Africa and related islands: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, and International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Cambridge, U.K.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Langrand, O. 1990. Guide to the birds of Madagascar. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Langrand, O.; Goodman, S. M. 1995. Monitoring Madagascar's ecosystems: a look at the past, present, and future of its wetlands. In: Herman, T.B.; Bondrup-Nielsen, S.; Willison, J.H.M.; Munro, N.W.P. (ed.), Ecosystem monitoring and protected areas, pp. 204-214. Science and Management of Protected Areas Association, Wolfville, Canada.

Langrand, O.; Wilmé, L. 1993. Protection des zones humides et conservation des especes d'oiseaux endemiques de Madagascar. Annales des Sciences Zoologiques Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale 286: 201-209.

Morris, P.; Hawkins, F. 1998. Birds of Madagascar: a photographic guide. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.

Stattersfield, A. J.; Crosby, M. J.; Long, A. J.; Wege, D. C. 1998. Endemic bird areas of the world: priorities for bird conservation. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Taylor, B. 1998. Rails: a guide to the rails, crakes, gallinules and coots of the world. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.

Wilmé, L.; Langrand, O. 1990. Rediscovery of Slender-billed Flufftail Sarothrura watersi (Bartlett, 1879), and notes on the genus Sarothrura in Madagascar. Biological Conservation 51: 211-223.

ZICOMA. 1999. Zones d'Importance pour la Conservation des Oiseaux a Madagascar.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Hawkins, F., Langrand, O., Taylor, P.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Sarothrura watersi. Downloaded from on 20/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 20/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Slender-billed flufftail (Sarothrura watersi) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, Coots)
Species name author (Bartlett, 1879)
Population size 250-999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 5,900 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species