The Auckland Island rail is much smaller than the banded rail and is probaby flightless, like the extinct dieffenbach rail of the Chatham Islands. It is endemic to the Auckland Islands 460 km south of New Zealand where it is currently restricted to two islands in the Auckland group, Adams Island and Disappointment Island. The population of aound 1500 is currently stable on the two islands it survives on. It is thought to have become extinct on the main Auckland Islands due to the presence of introduced feral cats and pigs. However, a restoration and eradication programme is in place which may see them return to the main islands.
There are conflicting reports about the rail's ability to fly. Early accounts suggested it could, but recent researchers have found little evidence for this. If the species is able to fly, it does so very infrequently. The Auckland Rail is highly secretive and was considered to be extinct for many years before its rediscovery, on Adams Island in 1966, and Disappointment Island in 1993.
Its closest relative would seem to be the Lewin's Rail of Australia. However its taxanomic status is under review by the BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group.
Little is known about the breeding biology of the Auckland Rail. Auckland Rails have a variety of calls, the most common being a crex call made at one second intervals 10 or more times in a row. The function of the calls is unknown.
Its preferred habitat consists of coastal and cliff herbfields, Carex grassland, tussock-herbfields and forest. The one clutch seen in the wild consisted of two eggs. The eggs are cream coloured with red, brown and grey spots. One juvenile bird caught in the wild lived nine years in captivity, and ate insects and other invertebrates.
Other common names: —
Lewin's rail, Auckland rail, Dryolimnas muelleri, Lewinia muelleri
21 cm, 90 g. Sexes alike; Upper parts chestnut streaked with black, cheeks and red-brown, chin and throat whitish, breast grey tinged with olive, bill pinkish, feet pinkish grey.
Where to find: —
Adams and Disappointment Islands in the Auckland Islands group.
Illustration description: —
George Edward Lodge.
Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.
Oliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955.
Page date & version: —
Monday, 2 June 2014; ver2009v1