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Plain-flanked Rail Rallus wetmorei
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This species is listed as Endangered because it is recently known from only three localities, and has a very small known population and range, which are presumed to be undergoing continuing and rapid declines owing to coastal development. There are recent records, and surveys are urgently required to develop appropriate conservation measures.

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.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

24-27 cm. Medium-sized, predominantly brown rail. Olive-brown crown. Pale fawn supercilium. Dark grey lores. Rest of face dull buffy-brown. Buffy-brown upperparts and tail, streaked blackish-brown. More uniform upperwing-coverts. Dark brown remiges. Whitish-buff chin. Buff throat. Buffy-brown and unstreaked underparts. More pinkish-buff lower belly and sometimes whitish undertail-coverts. Reddish-brown iris. Relatively straight and slender, dark olive bill, with paler brown base to lower mandible. Olive-brown legs. Similar spp. Clapper Rail R. longirostris is larger with grey on neck and barred underparts. Virginia Rail R. limicola has grey on the neck, barred underparts, rufous wing-coverts and red on bill. Voice Advertising call a series of loud, rapid "kek-kek-kek...kek-kek-kek" notes, often given in duet and preceded by several soft growling calls given by other bird. Male courtship call a series of evenly-spaced harsh "kek" notes (Taylor et al. 2014).

Distribution and population
This species is restricted to a small stretch of the north coast of Venezuela, where it is known from, at most, nine localities - and only three in recent years - in east Falcón, north Carabobo and Aragua. Recent survey work in 2010 and 2012 found the species in Parque Nacional Henri Pittier (Aragua), Parque Nacional San Esteban (Carabobo), Parque Nacional Morrocoy (Falcón) and Refugio de Fauna Silvestre de Cuare (Falcón) (A. Rodríguez-Ferraro in litt. 2013). 

It is extremely rare and very poorly known, but was probably at least locally common when discovered: 11 specimens were collected at Puerto Cabello/San Esteban in 1944-1945, and 11 at Tucacas in May 1951. It persists at Tucacas where at least six pairs were found in June 1999 (R. S. Ridgely in litt. 1999) and where it was again recorded in 2010 and 2012 (A. Rodríguez-Ferraro in litt. 2013) and on the Morrocoy Peninsula where there have been regular sightings since 1999 (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 2011, A. Rodríguez-Ferraro in litt. 2013). The only other records for Falcón since the 1950s are an unconfirmed record at Cuare Faunal Refuge in 1986 and sightings at the same location in 2010 and 2012 (A. Rodríguez-Ferraro in litt. 2013). In Carabobo, there are apparently recent sightings from Patanemo (Ascanio et al. 2008, A. Rodríguez-Ferraro in litt. 2013), 10 km east of Puerto Cabello. In Aragua, recent records are of a pair at Playa de Cata, 15 km east of La Ciénaga, in April 1991 (A. Fernández Badillo in litt. 1992) (however no suitable habitat occurs at this location [Taylor et al. 2014]), and a pair at Henri Pittier National Park in 1991 and 1993 (A. Fernandez Badillo per A. Lentino in litt. 1994) and again in 2010 and 2012 where approximately five pairs were recorded in both years (A. Rodríguez-Ferraro in litt. 2013). An observation of a bird at Las Peonias Lagoon near Maracaibo, Zulia in August 2000 (J. Colvée, cited in World Birdwatch 2001. 23(2):5) would be a significant range extension requiring verification.

Population justification
The population is assumed to fall in the band 50-249 individuals, based on a paucity of recent records and the restricted number of known localities. This equates to 33-166 mature individuals, placed here in the band 50-200 mature individuals. For the sites where there are recent records (i.e. since its initial collection in the 1940s-1950s), the population is estimated to be at least 20 pairs in the Morrocoy-Tucacas area of Falcón and 15 in Patanemo, Carabobo. Verification of this estimate is desirable.

Trend justification
This species's population is suspected to be rapidly decreasing as its mangrove habitat is lost or degraded due to coastal housing, touristic and industrial developments, pollution from domestic sewage and agricultural run-off, sedimentation and the restriction of water flow by road-building.

It is apparently sedentary in coastal mangroves, and shallow saltwater or seasonally flooded brackish lagoons and marshes with emergent and halophytic vegetation dominated by saltwort Batis maritima. A breeding condition female was collected in April, a male taken in May had enlarged testes, and a bird collected in September was apparently a juvenile, suggesting a breeding season beginning in April or May. Information on diet is lacking.

Mangrove habitats are being destroyed to make way for housing and hotel developments, and construction of marinas for pleasure boats. The Cuare Faunal Refuge is threatened by squatters, hotel developments, tourism, illegal hunting, pollution from domestic sewage, pesticides and mercury, a proposed golf course and the restriction of water flow by road-building. Development projects threaten the coastal wetlands of San Esteban and Henri Pittier National Park. The Playa de Cata lagoon has been closed off from the sea by a dyke to facilitate the development of the beach for tourism.

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
It is found in Parque Nacional Henri Pittier, Parque Nacional San Esteban and Parque Nacional Morrocoy (A. Rodríguez-Ferraro in litt. 2013). Cuare Faunal Refuge is a Ramsar site (Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1995). Significant mangrove areas remain in Henri Pittier and Morrocoy National Parks (Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1995, C. J. Sharpe, J. P. Rodríguez and F. Rojas-Suárez in litt. 1999). This species was considered Endangered in the Venezuelan Red Data Book (Sharpe 2008) and amongst the four highest priority bird species for conservation in Venezuela (Rodríguez et al. 2004). Periodic censuses were due to start in 2013 (A. Rodríguez-Ferraro in litt. 2013).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed

Survey to establish its current distribution (Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1995). Re-enforce management plans at Cuare Faunal Refuge (Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1995). Control tourism developments at Playa de Cata (Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez 1995).

Anon. 2001. New site for Plain-flanked Rail. World Birdwatch 23(2): 5.

Ascanio, D., Lentino, M. and Sharpe, C.J. 2008. Polla de Wetmore Rallus wetmorei. In: Rodríguez, J.P. and Rojas-Suárez, F. (eds), Libro Rojo de la fauna Venezolana. Tercera Edición, pp. 133. Provita & Shell Venezuela, S.A., Caracas, Venezuela.

Collar, N. J.; Gonzaga, L. P.; Krabbe, N.; Madroño Nieto, A.; Naranjo, L. G.; Parker, T. A.; Wege, D. C. 1992. Threatened birds of the Americas: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Rodríguez, J. P.; Rojas-Suárez, F. 1995. Libro Rojo de la fauna Venezolana. Provita, Caracas.

Rodríguez, J. P.; Rojas-Suárez, F.; Sharpe, C.J. 2004. Setting priorities for the conservation of Venezuela's threatened birds. Oryx 38(4): 373-382.

Sharpe, C.J. 2008. Aves. In: Rodríguez, J.P. & Rojas-Suárez, F. (ed.), Libro Rojo de la fauna Venezolana, 3rd edition, pp. 122-157. Provita & Shell Venezuela, S.A.,, Caracas, Venezuela.

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

Taylor, B., Boesman, P., Sharpe, C.J. and de Juana, E. 2014. Plain-flanked Rail (Rallus wetmorei). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

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.

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

Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note, taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Recuento detallado de la especie tomado del libro Aves Amenazadas de las Americas, Libro Rojo de BirdLife International (BirdLife International 1992). Nota: la taxonomoía y la categoría de la Lista Roja de la UICN pudo haber cambiado desde esta publicación.

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

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Capper, D., Pilgrim, J., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A. & Ashpole, J

Fernandez Badillo, A., Lentino, A., Ridgely, R., Rodríguez, J., Rojas-Suárez, F., Sharpe, C J & Rodríguez-Ferraro, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Rallus wetmorei. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

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 - Plain-flanked rail (Rallus wetmorei) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, Coots)
Species name author Zimmer & Phelps, 1944
Population size 50-200 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 120 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species