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African Rail Rallus caerulescens
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

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.

Trend justification
The population trend is difficult to determine because of uncertainty over the extent of threats to the species.

Behaviour There is no evidence that this species makes regular migratory movements (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998) although numbers may fluctuate throughout the year in some locations due to the dispersal of immatures and to nomadic behaviour in response to environmental conditions (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998, Hockey et al. 2005). The species is a strongly territorial breeder (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and undergoes a flightless moulting period lasting for c.3 weeks between August and November (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Habitat It inhabits permanent and temporary swamps and marshes often at the edge of lakes, pools, rivers and streams, and also occurs in seasonally wet sugar-cane plantations and paddy-fields adjacent to natural marshes (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998). It requires shallowly flooded areas with mud and floating vegetation for foraging (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998), and shows a preference for habitats lined with reedbeds or dense species-rich vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998) with channels and runways linking patches of more open growth (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). For breeding the species shows a preference for seasonally inundated grasslands and sedge meadows (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998) with robust sedges and grasses c.50 cm or more in height (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Diet Its diet consists of worms, crustaceans (e.g. crabs and crayfish), aquatic and terrestrial adult and larval insects, spiders, small fish, small frogs and some vegetable matter including seeds (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest is a shallow cup of plant matter well concealed in aquatic vegetation, usually over water (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

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

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hockey, P. A. R.; Dean, W. R. J.; Ryan, P. G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

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
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
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Rallus caerulescens. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

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 Least Concern
Family Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, Coots)
Species name author Gmelin, 1789
Population size Unknown mature individuals
Population trend Unknown
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 5,670,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change