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Lord Howe Woodhen Hypotaenidia sylvestris
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This species is listed as Endangered as it has an extremely small population which is restricted to a tiny area of available habitat on one island. Conservation efforts have resulted in the stabilisation of numbers.

Taxonomic source(s)
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
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.

Taxonomic note
Gallirallus conditicius (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993), known only from the type reputedly collected in the Apiang Group of the Gilbert Islands, Kiribati, in 1861, is not recognised as a separate species but is treated as a synonym of H. sylvestris (Greenway 1952, Olson 1992).
Hypotaenidia sylvestris (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Gallirallus.

Gallirallus sylvestris (Sclater, 1869), Tricholimnas sylvestris Collar and Andrew (1988)

34-42 cm (male), 32-37 cm (female). Large, olive-brown, flightless rail with bright chestnut wings. Olive-brown body, duller on underside. Indistinct, paler supercilium. Bright chestnut wings with narrow, dark brown bars on primaries and primary coverts. Long, decurved, pink bill, more brown towards tip. Red iris. Light pink-brown legs. Juvenile similar, but iris initially dark. Similar spp. Confusion unlikely. Buff-banded Rail G. philippensis is smaller, has bold black-and-white barring on underside, buff breast-band and clear white supercilium. Voice Loud, piercing, repeated whistle, often as duet. Hints Confiding. Spreads wings to sunbathe.

Distribution and population
Gallirallus sylvestris is endemic to Lord Howe Island (Australia). In 1788, it was found from sea-level to the tops of the two mountains on the island, but from the mid-19th century, it became restricted to the summits. In the 1970s the population comprised fewer than 10 breeding pairs (Brook et al. 1997). In the 1980s, following the eradication of introduced pigs Sus scrofa, birds were reintroduced to lowland sites, including isolated, steep, coastal palm forest at Little Slope, and lowland palm forests around the settlement. The highest densities are now surrounding the settlement and on Mt Gower, which support over half of the population. The population has reached the island’s carrying capacity (estimated at c.220 individuals [Brook et al. 1997]) and was estimated to be stable at around 220–230 birds and 71–74 breeding pairs (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service 2002).

Population justification
The population has recovered to the island's carrying capacity (estimated at c.220 individuals [Brook et al. 1997]) and was estimated to be stable at around 220–230 birds and 71–74 breeding pairs (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service 2002).

Trend justification
The total population has stabilised at c.130 mature birds (Garnett and Crowley 2000).

Gallirallus sylvestris is sedentary, flightless and confined to closed forest. At high altitudes, it occurs in gnarled, mossy forest which covers, and is unique to, the mountain summits. It is largely found in megaphyllous, broad sclerophyll forest at lower altitudes, particularly kentia palm Howea forsterana growing on igneous soils. It is rarely found in the rainforest subformation that covers most of the island. It nests on the ground under thick vegetation or in petrel burrows, and forages among the litter on the forest floor, taking worms, molluscs, invertebrates and occasionally petrel nestlings.

The species was eliminated from the lowlands by predation by feral pigs, cats, people and their dogs, as well as disturbance by pigs and goats. These threats were largely eliminated in the 1980s, although uncontrolled pet dogs can still be an occasional problem. The only remaining significant threat is the introduced Masked Owl Tyto novaehollandiae which is thought to be responsible for a major decline in the Little Slope population in 1989. Further introductions of exotic predators or the introduction of chronic disease could have serious consequences (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Buff-banded Rails Gallirallus philippensis have re-colonised the island and may conflict with Woodhens, especially during the breeding season (Garnett et al. 2011). Woodhens are likely to be in danger of accidental poisoning during the planned eradication of black rats, which is why it is planned to take as many as possible into captivity while the baits are toxic (Lord Howe Island Board 2009). Natural catastrophes are an additional threat. Population Viability Analysis using VORTEX suggests that the species remains highly susceptible to changes in survival or fecundity (Brook et al. 1997).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. The species is successfully bred in captivity. Predation and disturbance by dogs is minimised by community support for conservation efforts. Goats and pigs have been eradicated. Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor trends in the population. Control T. novaehollandiae. Develop captive breeding programmes and establish a remote population to minimise the risk of extinction (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Implement measures to prevent further introductions of exotic predators to Lord Howe Island.

Brook, B. W.; Lim, L.; Harden, R.; Frankham, R. 1997. How secure is the Lord Howe Island Woodhen? A population vaibility analysis using VORTEX. Pacific Conservation Biology: 125-133.

Collar, N. J.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2013. Conservation breeding and avian diversity: chances and challenges. International Zoo Yearbook.

Garnett, S. T.; Crowley, G. M. 2000. The action plan for Australian birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Garnett, S.T., Szabo, J.K. and Dutson, G. 2011. The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

Lord Howe Island Board. 2009. Draft Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Plan. Lord Howe Island Board, Lord Howe Island.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. 2002. Approved recovery plan for the Lord Howe Woodhen. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurstville, NSW.

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

Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.

Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline

Click here for more information about the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Garnett, S., McClellan, R., Pilgrim, J., Stattersfield, A., Taylor, J., Allinson, T, Symes, A.

Carlile, N.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Hypotaenidia sylvestris. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016.

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.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, Coots)
Species name author (Sclater, 1869)
Population size 140 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 2 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species