Tag Archives: Rallus indicus Blyth

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