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Zapata Rail Cyanolimnas cerverai
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This species is classified as Critically Endangered as the population, which is confined to a single area, is now thought to be extremely small and is undergoing continued decline, possibly due to the effect of invasive species. It is undoubtedly highly threatened and in need of urgent conservation action to investigate and halt this decline.

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.

29 cm. Medium-sized, moderately long-billed, blue-and-brown rail. Brown upperparts, slate grey underparts with grey hindflanks, white or buffy undertail and white throat, short white supercilium, red eye, yellow bill with red base, and orange legs (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 2012). Very short wings and virtually flightless. Similar spp. Spotted Rail Pardirallus maculatus is heavily spotted. Voice Unknown. Vocalisations previously ascribed to this species ("a bouncing call cutucutu-cutucutu-cutucutu") is now known to belong to Spotted Rail (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 2009). A Limpkin Aramus guarauna-like kuvk kuck is described by Bond (1979).

Distribution and population
This species occurs on the northern side of the 4,500 km2 Zapata swamp, south-west Cuba. Four were collected near Santo Tomás in 1927, and the species was found easily in 1931. There were no subsequent records until the 1970s, when its voice was thought to have been recorded and birds were found in the south-east of Laguna del Tesoro. There are also reliable records from Peralta, within the Zapata swamp (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 2007). It may occur elsewhere within the swamp (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998), and was formerly even more widespread, with fossil bones found in cave deposits in Havana, Pinar del Río and on the Isla de la Juventud (Olson 1974, Garrido 1985, E. Abreu in litt. 1999), and Sancti Spiritus (W. Suárez per A. Kirkconnell in litt. 2012). It is now thought to have an extremely small population given the paucity of recent records and threats to the species, with anecdotal evidence suggesting a significant decline since the year 2000 (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 2009, A. Mitchell in litt. 2009).

Population justification
Given the scarcity of recent sightings the population is thought to number fewer than 250 mature individuals (A. Kirconnell in litt. 2009, A. Mitchell in litt. 2009), and so is placed in the band 50-249 mature individuals. This equates to 75-374 individuals in total, rounded to 70-400 individuals here.

Trend justification
The paucity of recent records and anecdotal evidence suggest that there has been a significant decline since the year 2000, though the rate of decline is unknown (A. Kirconnell in litt. 2009; A. Mitchell in litt. 2009). Surveys are required to confirm this suspected decline. Declines have been noted in resident Spotted Rail Porzana maculatus and King Rail Rallus elegans as well as migrant Sora P. carolina (A. Mitchell in litt. 2012).

It inhabits a flooded, tall (1.5-2.0 m) grassland ecosystem comprising dense, tangled, bush-covered swamp with low trees, where 'arraigán' Myrica cerifera brush, Salix longipes, sawgrass Cladium jamaicensis and cattails Typha angustifolia are common (King 1981, Regalado Ruíz 1981, E. Abreu in litt. 1999, Kirkconnell et al. 1999). C. jamaicensis is the preferred vegetation for nesting and feeding (E. Abreu in litt. 1999). Breeding takes place around September, and possibly in December and January (Raffaele et al. 1998). Nests are apparently situated on raised tussocks above water-level (Bond 1984). Birds may disperse during wet-season floods, returning to permanently inundated areas in the dry season (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998).

Dry-season burning is potentially devastating. Introduced mongooses and rats are probably important predators. Exotic African Catfish Clarias gariepinus may also predate juveniles, a problem exacerbated by the species's nidifugous nature, and there is anecdotal evidence that there has been a dramatic decline in population in all rallids at the site since catfish were introduced in 2000 (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 2009, A. Mitchell in litt. 2009, 2012). There was formerly extensive grass-cutting for roof thatch.

Conservation Actions Underway
Two known sites are in protected areas: the well protected and managed Corral de Santo Tomás Faunal Refuge (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998), and a nature tourism area including the Laguna del Tesoro. The last surveys for the species throughout its range were reported in 1998 and 1999 (Cotinga 10 1998, Kirkconnell et al. 1999).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Urgently conduct surveys to assess current population size, distribution and status. Assess the impact of introduced species and research ways to mitigate their effects. Conduct research into the ecology of this species. Control dry season burning. Survey for any additional threats. Investigate current habitat management practices and recommend future strategies (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998).

Bond, J. 1979. Birds of the West Indies. Collins, London.

Bond, J. 1984. Twenty-fifth supplement to the check-list of birds of the West Indies (1956). Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Philadelphia.

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.

Garrido, O. H. 1985. Cuban endangered birds. In: Buckley, P.A.; Foster, M.S.; Morton, E.S.; Ridgely, R.S.; Buckley, F.G. (ed.), Neotropical ornithology, pp. 992-999. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

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

King, W. B. 1981. Endangered birds of the world: the ICBP bird Red Data Book. Smithsonian Institution Press and International Council for Bird Preservation [bound reissue of King 1978-1979], Washington, D.C.

Kirkconnell, A.; González, O.; Alfaro, E.; Cotayo, L. 1999. Nuevas localidades para la Gallinuela de Santo Tomás Cyanolimnas cerverai y la Ferminia Ferminia cerverai, en la Ciénaga de Zapata, Cuba. Cotinga 12: 57-60.

Olson, S. L. 1974. A new species of Nesotrochis from Hispaniola, with notes on other fossil rails from the West Indies (Aves: Rallidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 87: 437-450.

Raffaele, H.; Wiley, J.; Garrido, O.; Keith, A.; Raffaele, J. 1998. Birds of the West Indies. Christopher Helm, London.

Regalado Ruíz, P. 1981. El género Torreornis (Aves: Fringillidae), descripción de una nueva subespecie en Cayo Coco, Cuba. Centro Agrícola: 87-112.

Sulley, S. C.; Sulley, M. E. 1992. Birding in Cuba. Worldwide Publications, Derbyshire, 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.

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., Calvert, R., Capper, D., Mahood, S., Pilgrim, J., Sharpe, C J, Wege, D., Martin, R & Ashpole, J

Abreu, E., Kirkconnell, A. & Mitchell, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Cyanolimnas cerverai. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

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

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Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Critically Endangered
Family Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, Coots)
Species name author Barbour & Peters, 1927
Population size 50-249 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,000 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species