Schlagwort-Archive: Gruiformes

Fossil record of the Gruiformes

Family incertae sedis

Loncornis erectus Ameghino

Wanshuina lii Hou


Aptornis proasciarostratus Worthy, Tennyson & Scofield


Badistornis aramus Wetmore


Amphipelargus cracrafti (Harrison & Walker)
Amphipelargus majori Lydekker
Amphipelargus sp. ‘Kryopigi, Greece’

Eogrus aeola Wetmore
Eogrus crudus Kurochkin
Eogrus turanicus (Bendukidze)

Ergilornis rapidus Kozlova
Ergilornis minor (Kozlova)

Sinoergilornis guangheensis Muster, Li & Clarke

Sonogrus gregalis Kurochkin

Urmiornis brodkorbi Karhu
Urmiornis dzabghanensis (Kurochkin)
Urmiornis maraghanus Mecquenem
Urmiornis orientalis (Kurochkin)
Urmiornis ukrainus Kurochkin


Eogeranoides campivagus Cracraft

Geranodornis aenigma Cracraft

Geranoides jepseni Wetmore

Palaeophasianus meleagroides Shufeldt

Paragrus prentici (Loomis)
Paragrus shufeldti Cracraft


Aramornis longurio Wetmore

Balearica excelsa Milne-Edwards
Balearica exigua Feduccia & Voorhies
Balearica rummeli Mlíkovský

Camusia quintanai Seguí

Eobalearica rinovi Gureev

Geranopsis hastingsiae Lydekker

Grus afghana Mourer-Chauviré et al.
Grus bogatshevi Serebrovakii
Grus cubensis Fischer & Stephan
Grus haydeni Marsh
Grus latipes Wetmore
Grus marshi Shufeldt
Grus melitensis Lydekker
Grus mongolica (Kurochkin)
Grus nannodes Wetmore & Martin
Grus pagei Campbell
Grus penteleci (Gaudry)
Grus primigenia Milne-Edwards
Grus sp. ‘Ryukuyu Islands, Japan’
Grus turfa Portis

Palaeogrus excelsa Milne-Edwards
Palaeogrus hordwelliensis Lydekker
Palaeogrus princeps (Portis)


Heliornithidae gen. & sp. ‘Pungo River Formation, USA’


Itardiornis hessae Mourer-Chauviré

Messelornis cristata Hesse,
Messelornis nearctica Hesse
Messelornis russelli Mourer-Chaviré

Pellornis mikkelseni Bertelli et al.

Walbeckornis creber Mayr


Parvigrus pohli Mayr

Rupelrallus saxoniensis Fischer


Aletornis bellus Marsh
Aletornis nobilis Marsh
Aletornis pernix Marsh

Australlus disneyi (Boles)
Australlus gagensis Worthy & Boles

Baselrallus intermedius De Pietri & Mayr

Belgirallus minutus Mayr & Smith
Belgirallus oligocaenus Mayr & Smith

Creccoides osbornii Shufeldt

Crexica crexica Zelenkov, Panteleyev & De Pietri

Eocrex primus Wetmore

Fulica infelix Brodkorb
Fulica americana ssp. shufeldti Brodkorb
Fulica montanei Alarcón-Muñoz, Labarca & Soto-Acuña [1]
Fulica stekelesi Tchernov

Fulicaletornis venustus Marsh

Gallinula sp. ‘Csarnota, Hungary’
Gallinula kansarum Brodkorb
Gallinula balcanica Boev

Ibidopsis hordwelliensis Lydekker

Latipons gardneri Harrison & Walker

Litorallus livezeyi Mather et al.

Miofulica dejardini Van Beneden

Miohypotaenidia tanaisensis Zelenkov, Panteleyev & De Pietri

Miorallus major Lambrecht

Palaeoaramides christyi (Milne-Edwards)
Palaeoaramides eximius Brodkorb

Palaeorallus troxelli Wetmore

Paraortygometra porzanoides Lambrecht

Pararallus dispar (Milne-Edwards)
Pararallus hassenkampi Martini

Pardirallus lacustris (Brodkorb)

Parvirallus gracilis Harrison & Walker

Pastushkinia zazhigini (Kurochkin)

Pleistorallus flemingi Worthy

“Porzana” botunensis Boev
“Porzana” estramosi Jánossy
“Porzana” kretzoii (Kessler)
“Porzana” piercei Olson & Wingate
“Porzana” risilla (Kurochkin)
“Porzana” sp. ‘QM F23253, Australia’
“Porzana” sp. ‘Văršec, Bulgaria’
“Porzana” veterior (Jánossy) 

Priscaweka parvales Mather et al.

Quercyrallus arenarius Milne-Edwards
Quercyrallus dasypus Milne-Edwards
Quercyrallus ludianus Brodkorb

Rallicrex kolozsvarensis Lambrecht

Rallidae gen. & sp. ‘Chono-Harayah, Mongolia’
Rallidae gen. & sp. ‘Jamna Dolna, Poland’

Rallus auffenbergi Brodkorb
Rallus cyanocavi Steadman et al.
Rallus ibycus Olson & Wingate
Rallus natator Miller
Rallus philipsi Wetmore
Rallus polgardiensis (Jánossy)
Rallus prenticei Wetmore
Rallus recessus Olson & Wingate
Rallus richmondi Olson
Rallus sp. ‘Mátraszõlõs, Hungary’
Rallus sp. ‘Ryukyu Islands, Japan’
Rallus sp. ‘Saw Rock Canyon, USA’

Rhenanorallus rhenanus Mayr

Youngornis gracilis Yeh
Youngornis qiluensis Yeh


Songzia acutunguis Wang, Mayr,  Zhang & Zhou
Songzia heidangkouensis Hou



[1] Jhonatan Alarcón-Muñoz; Rafael Labarca; Sergio Soto-Acuña: Holocene rails (Gruiformes: Rallidae) of Laguna de Tagua Tagua Formation, central Chile, with the description of a new extinct giant coot. Journal of South American Earth Sciences 104. 2020


edited: 20.01.2021

Atlantisia – eine Gattung, die es nie gab

Die Gattung Atlantisia wurde ursprünglich für drei Arten von flugunfähigen Arten verwendet, die auf einigen Inseln im Atlantischen Ozean endemisch verbreitet sind bzw. waren; eine davon ist der kleinste noch lebende flugunfähige Vogel, während die beiden anderen Arten leider ausgerottet wurden.

1. Atlantisia podarces (Wetmore), das ausgestorbene Saint Helena-Sumpfhuhn, ist offenbar tatsächlich am nächsten mit der Gattung Porphyrio verwandt und sollte daher besser seinen originalen Namen tragen – Aphanocrex podarces Wetmore.

2. Atlantisia rogersi Lowe, die Atlantisralle (siehe Foto), die auf dem winzigen Inaccessible Island in der Inselgruppe Tristan da Cunha lebt, ist, wie man anhand von DNA-Untersuchungen weiß, ein Mitglied der Gattung Laterallus und heißt nun Laterallus rogersi (Lowe).  

3. Atlantisia elpenor Olson, die ausgestorbene Ascencion-Ralle vom entlegenen Ascencion Island, stammt wohl vom selben Vorfahren ab wie die Atlantisralle und sollte daher nun Laterallus elpenor (Olson) heißen. [1]


Auch wenn der Gattungsname Atlantisia nun obsolet ist, ändert das nichts an der Tatsache, dass die ehemaligen Vertreter dieser Gattung zu den interessantesten und mysteriösesten Vogelarten der Welt gehören, über die bis heute fast nichts bekannt ist. 



[1] Marn Stervander; Peter G. Ryan; Marm Melo; Bengt Hansson: The origin of the world’s smallest flightless bird, the Inaccessible Island Rail Atlantisia rogersi (Aves: Rallidae)


Atlantisralle (Laterallus rogersi (Lowe))

Foto: Brian Gratwicke

(under creative commons license (2.0))


bearbeitet: 22.11.2020

Miller’s Rail

Miller’s Rail is one of the more commonly known so-called mysterious birds.

This species is actually known exclusively from a single drawing made by Georg Forster sometimes between 1772 and 75 during the second voyage of James Cook [and a copy of it made by John Frederick Miller, who described the bird as a new species in 1784]. The annotation just states that it is a Rallus minutus, [a small rail], [called] Maho, [and coming from] Taheitee, [Tahiti]. 

The drawing is rather a crude one, not „fieldguide-suitable“ and shows a small bird, clearly identifiable as a crake, with rather dark, almost black feathers, sitting on its red legs.

The bird could very well just be a Spotless Crake (Zapornia tabuensis (Gmelin)), which today is still [patchily these days] distributed all over Polynesia, and of course was even more so 250 years ago!


There is yet another quite detailed description supposed to be of this species, made by John Latham in 1785 from the actual type, that is now lost.:

Otaheite R[ail].

LENGTH six inches. Bill three quarters of an inch, black: the head, neck, and all the under parts of the body, dark ash-colour: palest on the chin: the upper parts, and wing coverts, deep red brown: quills dusky, edged with white: edge of the wing, and the first quill feather, white: tail an inch and a half long, rounded in shape, and black: legs dusky yellow. Claws black.
Inhabits Otaheite, and the Friendly Isles. Sir Joseph Banks.
“ [2]


The same book contains the description of a variety of the Tabuan rail [now Spottless Crake (Zapornia tabuensis)] from the island of Tanna in the Solomon Islands chain which is often regarded to as being the description of the actual type specimen of Miller’s Rail, however, the description differs quite significantly from G. Forster’s depiction.:

This varies in having the plumage more inclined to brown: the vent white, transversely barred with black lines: legs red.
Inhabits the island of Tanna. Sir Joseph Banks.
” [1]

The island of Tanna, mentioned here as place of origin of this bird, was just one of several islands that were visited by Cook and his entourage in the middle of the 18th century, and the place names given by J. Latham are very often completely wrong, however, the descriptions on the other hand are rather complete and trustworthy.

It has to be taken into account that such old books most often lack any kind of register and that they mostly just use common names but lack scientific ones, searching inside them is a long-term venture.


It is now quite well known that in former times probably all of the islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean were inhabited by endemic rails, with several islands being known to have been inhabited by more than one species, and in many cases these were congeneric species, meaning species from one and the same genus – something that today is extremely rare, which, however, is a relict situation, left behind by human-induced extinctions. [5]


In ancient Tahiti, the meho too was thought to represent a deity, namely Tu (in his manifestation of moonlit sky), the meho’s cry is given as having been a „ho“, which is also thought to be the characteristic sound made by Tu himself. [3][4]

This little sentence is yet another prove for the former existence of another rail species on Tahiti beside the Red-billed Rail (Gallirallus pacificus (Gmelin)), which is also mentioned in this short enumeration of birds representincg gods in ancient Tahiti.



[1] John Latham: A General Synopsis of Birds 3(1): 235. Leigh & Sotheby, London 1785
[2] John Latham: A General Synopsis of Birds 3(1): 236. Leigh & Sotheby, London 1785
[3] Teuira Henry: Ancient Tahiti. Bishop Museum Bulletins 48: 1-651. 1928
[4] Douglas L. Oliver: Ancient Tahitian Society. The University Press of Hawai’i, Honolulu 1974
[5] David W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University of Chicago Press 2006


Depiction by Georg Forster, 1772-75

(public domain)


edited: 28.07.2020

A swamphen from Ra’iatea?

Swamphens (genus Porphyrio) are distributed worldwide (except of course Antarctica), five species are currently officially recognized. In my opinion there are actually more species, 11 to be exact, namely if the Purple Swamphen (species complex) is split into the distinct species which it actually consists of.

And then there are the extinct members including five described species and seven not-yet-described ones.


And … then there are the hypothetical ones … two so far, one of which I have already written about here:

The Tahitian Mountain Goose

The other one is way less mysterious and on the other hand much more mysterious, it is a swamphen from Ra’iatea, Society Islands.

The island of Ra’iatea lies 50 km east of Huahine, the home island of McNab’s Swamphen (Porphyrio mcnabiKirchman & Steadman), one of 12 the extinct swamphen forms known on the basis of subfossil bones only.


What do we actually known about the mysterious bird of today’s post?

Not much. There is a little note among a big listing of Polynesian (including Melanesian and Micronesian) birds, which says the following.:

319.* Porphyrio sp.
Porphyrio sp. (Schmeltz), Cat. Mus. Godef. 1874 V, p. XVI; Garrett, 1. C. note.
Island of Raiatea, Society Is. (Garrett).
This species is known from two young specimens only.
“ [1]


And that’s it.

I could not find out anything else.

But … the Australian Swamphen is known to be a trampy species and has colonized new Zealand only quite recently, maybe only after the colonization of the islands by the first Polynesians. The same species has also colonized parts of Oceania, where the ssp. pelewensis Hartlaub & Finsch has evolved in Palau and the ssp. samoensis Peale (including. ssp. vitiensis Peale) in western Polynesia.

So, the two Ra’iatean birds may in fact not have been collected on Ra’iatea at all but on another island, or they may have been taken there but may have originated from another place, maybe from Samoa, the closest place where swamphens still exist today.
… or the Ra’iatean birds were indeed a distinct subspecies or perhaps rather species that survived into the 19th century.


Here is a little update for this enigmatic bird.:

Porphyrio porphyrio (L.), Talève poule-sultane. 

La seule citation de l’espèce en Polynésie orientale est due à Wiglesworth (1891b) qui mentionne «Porphyrio species» à Raiatea d’apres deux spécimens immatures collectés par Andrew Garrett. Il semble que les spécimens aient disparu. Il est douteux qu’il s’agisse d’une erreur d’étiquetage car Garrett ne visita certainement pas les Samoa, ni d’autres îles de ‚ouest du Pacifique. Ces oiseaux étaient donc, soit des visiteurs de Samoa, soit les représentants d’une population vivant autrefois à Raiatea et éteinte depuis longtemps.
“ [2]


Porphyrio porphyrio (L.), Purple Swamphen.  

The only quotation of the species in Eastern Polynesia is due to Wiglesworth (1891b) which mentions «Porphyrio species» in Raiatea according to two immature specimens collected by Andrew Garrett. The specimens appear to have disappeared. It is doubtful that this was a labeling error because Garrett certainly did not visit Samoa or other islands in the western Pacific. These birds were therefore either visitors from Samoa or representatives of a population formerly living in Raiatea and extinct for a long time.


[1] Lionel K. Wiglesworth: Aves polynesiae: a catalogue of the birds of the Polynesian subregion (not including the Sandwich Islands). Berlin: R. Friedlaender & Sohn 1891 In: Abhandlungen und Berichte des Königl. Zoologischen und Anthropologisch-Etnographischen Museums zu Dresden Bd. 3: 1-84. 1890/91. herausgegeben von Hofrath Dr. A. B. Meyer, Director des Museums
[2] D. T. Holyoak; J.-C. Thibault: Contribution à l’étude des oiseaux de Polynésie orientale. Mémoires du Muséum national d’histoire naturelle 127(1): 1-209. 1984


edited: 10.03.2020

A Tahitian Swamphen?

While researching some accounts reffering to the Washington Island Gadwall (Mareca strepera ssp. couesi Streets), I stumbled accros a footnote that made me wonder … a bit at least.:

The native birds of Tahiti are in a sad state; the Porphyrio is extinct, as is the small grey, Thrush-like Omaomao [Tahiti Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus caffer (Sparrman))], famous for its beautiful song, and the magnificent large Fruit Pigeon [Polynesian Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula aurorae (Peale))], of which a few existed as late as 1920.“ [1]

Well, aside the fact that the name „Omaomao“ is rather applied to the Garrett’s Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus musae ssp. garretti (Holyoak & Thibault)), the Tahiti Reed-Warbler is still alive.

What amazes me is that the author mentiones the term „Porphyrio“ in a absolutely casual way, and this certain author, Charles Nordhoff, knew what a Porphyrio is, he kept six New Zealand Swamphens (Porphyrio melanotus (Temminck)) in the garden of his house while living on the island of Tahiti.


There is furthermore a painting by Paul Gaugin, made in 1897 during a stay on Tahiti, it is called „Vairumati“ (see below) and shows a female islander sitting on a chair and to her left a strange-looking white bird that very much reminds on a swamphen. 

I personally do not think that Gaugin painted a real bird here because the same bird appears in several of his paintings, always in the same pose, differing only in the coloration.

Paul Gaugin „Vairumati“ 1897

(public domain)


It nevertheless is almost certain that a swamphen species once inhabited the island of Tahiti, and that additional species inhabited all of the other Society islands, however, the only true evidence for that assumption are the subfossil remains of McNab’s Swamphen (Porphyrio mcnabi Kirchman & Steadman) found on the island of Huahine.

I only somehow doubt that this Tahiti Swamphen disappeared only around the 1940s … but, who knows.



[1] Charles Nordhoff: Notes on the birds of Tahiti. The Avicultural Magazine ser. 5. 8(5): 119-120. 1943


edited: 27.02.2020

Some Micronesian beauties

A while ago I found this Japanese book about the birds of Micronesia online while searching for I don’t no what, it originally probably included more than these three plates, however, these are the only ones that I could find and I want to share them here because they are so exceedingly beautiful.:

Tokutaro Momiyama: Horyo Nanyo Shoto-san chorui. Tokyo: Nihon Chogakkai: Taisho 11. 1922
(public domain)


I will name the birds with their current names in the order in which they are depicted.


White-throated Ground Dove (Alopecoenas xanthonurus ), female and male 
Caroline Ground Dove (Alopecoenas kubaryi)
White-browed Crake (Amaurornis cinereus)
Pohnpei Lorikeet (Trichoglossus rubiginosus)
Purple-capped Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus ponapensis)
Micronesian Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula oceanica ssp. monacha)
Kosrae Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus hernsheimi), juvenile
Truk Monarch (Monarcha rugensis), young male, adult male, and female
Yap Olive White-eye (Zosterops oleagineus)
Truk White-eye (Rukia ruki)


edited: 20.10.2019

Micronesia – the state of our knowledge of its native birds

Have you ever heard of Lamotrek, Ngulu, or Woleai? 


Neither did I ….

These are the names of some of the atolls that form a squadron-like swarm around the Yap Islands – you have also never heard of the Yap Islands?

Well, let me help you out here, the Yap Islands are a part of the Federated States of Micronesia, which again are a part of Micronesia which is a name for the region of small islands that lie east of the Philippines, north of New Guinea, the Solomons and Vanuatu, and west of Polynesia.


I asked for the name Woleai especially because I only recently found out that the White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus (Pennant)) ‚recently‘ expanded its area of distribution from Southeast Asia to exactly this part of Micronesia. [1]

The photo below shows that species, the name of the photographer is just a coincidence, I swear.   🙂

I wrote ‚recently‘ in quotation marks because this bird apparently appeared here already in the 1970s, but no one took any notice of that until 2009, when some westerners cought one bird on the Woleai atoll.

This event is a very good exemplary for the whole state of the ornithological research in that region – we just do not know anything.



[1] Donald W. Buden; Stanley Retogral: Range expansion of the White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) into Micronesia. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 122(4): 784-788. 2010


Photo: Lip Kee Yap

(under creative commons license (2.0))


edited: 01.06.2019

Pareudiastes – some thoughts about the Puna’e and its mysterious congeners

The genus Pareudiastes consists of two species that are known from historical times, meaning ‘having been seen’ by western scientists, we can probably add at least two undescribed extinct forms that are known exclusively from scanty subfossil remains, one from Fiji and one from the Solomon Islands.

The two species of which at least skins remain are very little known, the Puna’e (Pareudiastes pacificus Hartlaub & Finsch) from Samoa in fact is the best known of them.:


Depiction from: G. Hartlaub; O. Finsch: On a collection of birds from Savai and Rarotonga Islands in the Pacific. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1871: 21-32

(public domain)

The Puna’e, whose name roughly means ‘springs up’, is known to have inhabited the rainforests of Savai’i, Samoa, it is said by the natives to have lived in burrows which were longer than a man’s arm and which ended in a sort of chamber in which the bird slept during the day.

The large eyes of the species indeed point to somewhat nocturnal habits.

When the bird was disturbed it jumped up from its burrow with fluttering wings, but being flightless it landed shortly after and run away quickly.

It is furthermore known that it was not a vegetarian species, since it died when it was fed with plant material but was ‘happy’ when fed with insects.


There is at least one reliable account that indicates that this species also inhabited the neighboring island of ‘Upolu.:

The Samoans always speak of the Pareudiastes as the ‘bird which burrows like a rat.’ Again and again when I have put the question to a native, ‘Do you know the Puna’ e?’ the reply has been, ‘No, I have never seen it; but that is the bird of which the old people speak that it used to be very plentiful long ago, and that it burrows like a rat and lives underground.’ It is very rarely that I have met with any one who has seen the bird; but I have met with two persons who have actually taken it in its burrow. The first is a man well  known to me, and in whose veracity I have faith. He says that about four years ago [ca. 1870] he was one of a large party hunting feral pigs in the mountains of Upolu, when they came upon a burrow which one of the party pronounced to be the hole of a Puna’e. My informant says that he put his arm into the hole, and at its extremity (which he could barely reach) he found the bird. He drew it out, and, taking it home, tried to tame and feed it; but it would not eat, and soon died.” [1]

Yet, how is this possible? The islands of Savai’i and ‘Upolu are separated by the 13 km wide Apolima strait.:

Apolima strait; Savai’i (above) and ‘Upolu and Manono (below), in the middle the small island of Apolima 

Photo: Teineisavaii; Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center. “The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.”

(public domain)

During the Pleistocene the sea level was lower and Manono very likely was connected with ‘Upolu, but Apolima was not, and Savai’i and ‘Upolu also weren’t connected.

So, how did a flightless bird manage to get from one island to the other?

Well, the answer might be that the Puna’e wasn’t flightless at the time when the sea level was lower, or that the birds from ‘Upolu represented a distinct (sub)species.


What do we know about the second historical known species, the Makira Woodhen (Pareudiastes silvestris (Mayr))?

Well, not that much.:

This species is known from a single specimen that was taken in 1929 on the island of Makira, Solomon Islands in montane forest at an elevation of about 600 m, only its skin was preserved, the bones not, and it apparently was flightless or at least nearly so.

The natives called it Kia and hunted it with dogs.

That’s all.

The species was apparently still ‘well-known’ by the natives in 1953, and they also said that it was not rare, nevertheless not a single one was ever seen since.

The Makira Woodhen, or Kia, however, is the sole member of this genus that may in fact still survive, and I personally hope that it might be rediscovered some day.


The other two additional forms, as i said before, are known only from some scanty subfossil remains found on the island of Buka in the northernmost part of the Solomon Islands as well as on Viti Levu, the largest of the Fijian Islands respectively. 

There’s not much that can be said about these two, so let’s hope that some day more remains are found to shed some light on that matter.



[1] Letter from Rev. S. J. Whitmee. In: Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1874: 183-186


edited: 30.05.2019

The rail that (not) existed two times

During the last few days the online newspapers were trying to outdo each other with silly headlines, headlines like … :   

The bird that came back from the dead” or: “Extinct species of bird came back from the dead, scientists find” or, the worst of them all: “Scientists discover bird that came back from the dead – A species which became extinct 136,000 years ago in a rare flood on an Indian Ocean atoll has now re-emerged in the same place“  


What is wrong with that?  

Well, a lot, but let’s just start with the statement that their isn’t any species that really goes extinct and then comes back, also not a rail species!  

We actually deal with two distinct species here, or let’s rather say, with two distinct taxa, since they may not be species but subspecies.  


May I introduce the White-throated Rail (Dryolimnas cuvieri (Pucheran)), a very beautiful rail species that is endemic to the island of Madagascar and that apparently has also colonized the island of Mayotte northeast of Madagascar.    

Photo: Bernard Dupont  

(under creative commons license (2.0))

This species obviously is the source of several other flightless species and subspecies that are known to have existed on many of the islands around Madagascar, such forms are known from the islands of Mauritius and Réunion west of Madagascar and others from some of the atolls that belong to the Seychelles north of Madagascar, including the Aldabra atoll.  

And the Aldabra atoll in fact is the only place where such a flightless form (subspecies or species if you want) still survives until today, this is the Aldabra Rail (Dryolimnas (cuvieri ssp.aldabranus (Günther)).  


Long time ago, some White-throated Rails for which reason ever, took a flight to the atoll to find it uninhabited (by rails) and decided to stay there … over time the rails that were born on this predator-free island stopped using their wings and their descendants again finally became completely flightless.  

But then the Aldabra atoll just disappeared due to total inundation in the middle Pleistocene, about 340000 years before present, leading to the extinction of all endemic animals and plants, including this ‘First’ Aldabra Rails.  


Then again, around 100000 years before present, the sea-level begun to sink and the Aldabra atoll reemerged.  

Again, some White-throated Rails left their home island of Madagascar and took a flight to the north to find a new home on the now rail-free Aldabra atoll, and the story took the same direction as thousands of years before, and the final result are the recent endemic, flightless Aldabra Rails that one can see when visiting the atoll.  


So, the Aldabra atoll was inhabited by two distinct lineages of flightless rails at two different times in history, respectively prehistory, that, despite both descenting from one and the same ancestor species, still represent two completely distinct forms, whether they are referred to as subspecies or as species.  



[1] Julian P. Hume; David Martill: Repeated evolution of flightlessness in dryolimnas rails (Aves: Rallidae) after extinction and recolonization on Aldabra. Zoolocigal Journal of the linnean Society 20: 1-7. 2019  


edited: 10.05.2019

Bevere’s Rail

This is my blog and so I will now talk about myself right now!

Attention: I made a discovery, yesterday evening I found a drawing of a bird that I did not know.

Because it was supposed to be a rail I could just say that this is a species that does not exist (either any longer or at all), because I simply know every rail species (they are amongst my closest favorite birds, so I indeed know all of them quite well), may it be extant or extinct.

I had also never ever heard of the artist before, so probably haven’t you, who ever is reading this article right now.   🙂

Enough about me ….


Pieter Cornelius de Bevere (1721-1781) is an almost unknown artist who lived on the island of Sri Lanka and who produced many drawings of birds (and other stuff), several of them in a distinct way of being dead and lying belly-up on a tree trunk.

The artist created the drawings for the likewise almost unknwon “Loten collection of coloured drawings of birds, mammals, insects & plants” from the years 1754 to 1757. This work apparently contains almost exclusively drawings of species from Sri Lanka

There is a single drawing that shows a bird that appears to be completely unknown, a rail, apparently from the island of Sri Lanka as all the other species in the work.

The bird appears to have a rather fluffy plumage, typical of rails, the typical rail-like long and strong legs and feet, a typical beak and so on, it has no visible wings, so may even have been flightless – it is clearly a rail, yet, which one?

Even if we take all the known rail species worldwide into account there is none that looks like this one.

Now one could easily think that Pieter Cornelius de Bevere was just a bad artist, who drew unrecognizable things, but this is just not the case here – he was a rather well-skilled artist, and all his bird drawings can very easily be recognized and assigned to certain species.

With this one exception! And that leads me to the conclution that he painted some rail species that obviously once inhabited the island of Sri Lanka, at least until the middle of the 18th century.

The bird was identified as Eastern Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus ssp. indicus Blyth), now recognized as a full species, however bears absolutely no similarities with that species, and the bird depicted does definitely not belong in that genus at all. [1]

Bevere’s Rail is now either extinct or just has never been recognized as being something somewhat distinct (actually very distinct) from all known rail species, and thus may even be still alive and hiding somewhere on Sri Lanka, awaiting its discovery and description.


[1] Alexander J. P. Raat: The Life of Governor Joan Gideon Loten (1710-1789): A personal history of a Dutch virtuoso. Hilversum Verloren 2010


Depiction from the ‚Loten collection of coloured drawings of birds, mammals, insects & plants‘

(public domain)


A little update here.:

It appears that this enigmatic bird isn’t that enigmatic after all, it may in fact turn out to be an immature White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus Pennant), and look what I just found, a depiction of an adult one that looks very familiar, doesn’t it?


Depiction from: ‚Johann Reinhold Forster: Indische Zoologie oder systematische Beschreibungen seltener und unbekannter Thiere aus Indien: mit 15 illuminirten Kupfertafeln erläutert; Nebst einer kurzen vorläufigen Abhandlung über den Umfang von Indien und die Beschaffenheit des Klima, des Bodens und des Meeres daselbst, und einem Anhange, darin ein kurzes Verzeichniß der Thiere in Indien mitgetheilt wird. Halle, bey Johann Jacob Gebauer 1781‘

(public domain)


edited: 24.11.2018

Amsterdam Island Rail – gone with the wind

When C. Jouanin and P. Paulian surveyed beds of subfossil bones on Île Amsterdam in the subantarctic Indian Ocean in 1960, they found almost only bones of seabirds, but also some bones of what later was described as the Amsterdam Island Duck (Anas marecula Olson & Jouventin) – and – the mummified body of a middle-sized rail.  

The two just wrote some kind of short note [1], that later, in 1977, was translated by Storrs L. Olson.:  

A mummy of a small rail was discovered in a tunnel in a lava flow, under a block that had no doubt protected it from moisture. A sketch was made in situ, as well as taking measurements of the beak (22 mm), the tarsus (40) and the middle toe without claw (34), but the mummy fell to dust when an attempt was made to pick it up. In this case one cannot infer the former existence of a rail peculiar to New Amsterdam, although it would be perfectly likely (endemic species of this order exist on most isolated islands), for the measurements cited coincide with those of a skin of a Corncrake (Crex crex Linnaeus) in the British Museum collected 100 miles to the south of Madagascar. Still, this identification is not wholly satisfactory: the mummy did not have the bulk nor the heavy bill of a Corncrake, and it is most regrettable not to have been able to remove it.“ [2]  

The Amsterdam Island Rail very, very, very likely, if not absolutely definitely, was an endemic species, that indeed may have descended from the trampy Corncrake, a species that inhabits parts of western Asia and Europe, but on its migrations, pops up almost everywhere on Earth!  


Imagine how many such endmic rails may have existed before mankind spread all over the planet, it must have been thousands …!  



[1] C. Jouanin; P. Paulian: Recherche das ossements d’oiseaux provenant de l’île Nouvelle-Amsterdam (Océan Indien). Proceedings of the XIIth International Ornithological Congress, Helsinki: 368-372. 1960 
[2] Storrs L. Olson: A synopsis of the fossil Rallidae. In: Sidney Dillon Ripley: Rails of the World – A Monograph of the family Rallidae. Codline. Boston 1977  


edited: 15.10.2018

Bruner’s Rail

Bruner’s Rail (Cacroenis inornatus Bruner) is a very enigmatic species of rail supposed to have been endemic to the Tuamotu Archipelago, whose name repeatedly appears in listings of extinct birds and other publications. [4]  


Yet, this species has never existed, but see for yourself.:  

The name first appears in the “Field guide to the birds of French Polynesia” from 1972, obviously the first book about the birds of French Polynesia, and full of errors, some of them bad, others worst. [3]  

The story begins right with the discovery of the Cocos Finch in 1843.: [1][2]  

This bird, which is in all probability a female, is from Bow Island, and is, I believe, the only insessorial form that has been brought from thence. Only a single example was procured, and its principal interest consists in its forming an additional species of a small group of birds inhabiting the Galapagos, to which islands they had hitherto appeared to be peculiar. … 
Bow Island has truly little to boast of in its ornithology, since the only birds seen by us during a residence of six weeks at this Atol coral island were doves, the above new species of Cactornis, plover, a few black and white tern which appear attached to these situations, and herons; and none of these were at all numerous. The Cactornis inornatus was usually noticed about the lowly bushes of Petesia carnea, the succulent fruit of which most probably constitutes its chief food.


Bow- or La Harpe Island, both are old names for the Hao atoll in the middle of the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia, and the plant mentioned in the text, Petesia carnea, is now known as Psychotria carnea (G. Forst.) A. C. Sm., a species that is native to Fiji and Tonga, and that has never existed in the Tuamotu Archipelago.  


The bird is mentioned in the “Field guide to the birds of French Polynesia” [as Cacroenis inornatus] as being confusing and obscure but also as being small, speckled and generally brownish in appearance; it appears in a checklist at the end of the book [this time as Cactornis inornatus] as having been introduced to the Archipelago, which is complete bullsh**!  


The Cocos Finch is now named as Pinaroloxias inornata (Gould), however, how this finch-like tanager finally ended up as a extinct rail species is still not known to me.  


[1] John Gould: On nine new birds collected during the voyage of H.M.S. Sulphur. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 11. 103-107. 1843 
[2] John Edward Gray; John Gould; John Richardson; Richard Brinsley Hinds and others: The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Sulphur: under the command of Captain Sir Edward Belcher, during the years 1836-42. London: Smith, Elder 1843-1846 
[3] Phillip L. Bruner; O. G. Dykes: Field guide to the birds of French Polynesia. Bishop Museum Press 1972 
[4] Greg Sherley; Rod Hay: Review of avifauna conservation needs in Polynesia. Bird Conservation Priorities and a Draft Avifauna Conservation Strategy for the Pacific Islands Region 10-17. 1999  


Cocos Finch (Pinaroloxias inornata), female  

Depiction from: ‚John Edward Gray; John Gould; John Richardson; Richard Brinsley Hinds and others: The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Sulphur: under the command of Captain Sir Edward Belcher, during the years 1836-42

(public domain) 


edited: 26.09.2018

Parvigrus pohli Mayr

This not so crane-like little birdie once inhabited in the Early Oligocene, from about 32,5 to 29,5 Ma. years ago, what today is Belgium and France and certainly other parts of Europe as well.

The species reached the size of a smaller chicken, or let’s say of about 35 cm in length in my reconstruction.

The family it belongs to is thought to be most closely related to the limpkins (Aramidae), the cranes (Gruidae) and the trumpeters (Psophidae), and indeed, my reconstruction appears to show a bird that is something in between all of these three families.  




[1] Gerald Mayr: A chicken-sized precursoor from the early Oligocene of France. Naturwissenschaften 92:389-393. 2005
[2] Gerald Mayr: Parvigruidae (Aves, core Gruiformes) from the early Oligocene of Belgium. Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments 93(1): 77-89. 2012


edited: 20.05.2018

Songzia spp.

This genus currently contains two species, which mainly differ by their size, Songzia acutunguis Wang et al. and the slightly smaller Songzia heidangkouensis Hou.

These two species have much in common with the recent species of the rail family, yet may not be related to them, but may be closer to the extinct Messel ‘Rails’, the Messelornithidae, which themselves may or may not be members of the Gruiformes.


The two Songzia ‘Rails’ are small, sparrow-sized birds, in life they probably inhabited the margins of lakes and other swampy areas.

The picture is just a sketch.


Feather impressions are not known to my knowledge, however, I thought it would be a good idea to give the bird somewhat elongated tail feathers, since the feather impressions in some messelornithid fossils show that these birds had very long tail feathers.



[1] Min Wang; Gerald Mayr; Jiangyong Zhang; Zhonghe Zhou: Two new skeletons of the enigmatic, rail-like avian taxon Songzia Hou, 1990 (Songziidae) from the early Eocene of China. Alcheringa: An Australian Journal of Palaeontology 36: 487-499. 2012


edited: 08.01.2017