Calayan rail

Calayan rail

Calayan rail

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Gallirallus calayanensis

The Calayan rail (Gallirallus calayanensis ) is a flightless bird of the rail, moorhen, and coot family (Rallidae) that inhabits Calayan Island in the Philippines. Though well known to natives of the island as the "piding", it was first observed by ornithologist Carmela Española in May 2004 and the discovery was officially announced on August 16, 2004. The formal description as a species new to science appeared in the journal Forktail (Allen et al. 2004).

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It is one of the two extant species of the genus Gallirallus along with the weka of New Zealand. All other species in the genus were distributed throughout many Pacific islands but were wiped out in the Quaternary extinction event. Many extant rails were also formerly classified in the genus, but most have since been moved to the genus Hypotaenidia.

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The Calayan rail is a relatively large, flightless rail. Its plumage is dark grayish overall, with a blacker face and slightly browner upperparts. The bill and legs are bright orange-red, unique among similar-sized dark-colored ground-dwelling birds on Calayan. Its vocalizations are loud, harsh, and nasal-sounding.



Biogeographical realms

It is found on the primary and secondary forest on coralline limestone areas on Calayan.

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IUCN has assessed this bird as vulnerable with an estimated population of just 2,500 to 4,300 mature individuals. It was initially estimated by biologists in 2004 that there were just 200 pairs on the island. It has since been found to be locally common, with an estimated area of occupancy of 36 km2. However recent species distribution modelling estimated its area of occupancy at 90.2 km2.

The species' main threat is habitat loss with the clearance of forest habitats as a result of logging and agricultural conversion within its range. It is also occasionally caught in snares meant for Red junglefowl. It is also threatened by introduced species in cats, dogs and rats which could prey on these birds and their nests.

The Calayan municipal council has passed Municipal Ordinance No. 84, which prohibits the capture, sale, possession and collection of the species. There are currently many awareness campaigns using this rail as a flagship species. The municipality of Calayan has passed an ordinance establishing the Calayan Wildlife Sanctuary which covers 29km2 of the island interior.

Conservation actions proposed include more research is needed to clarify the habitat requirements, range size and population size of the species. Promote the establishment of an environmental monitoring system. Conduct further community consultations and education campaigns. Set up a volunteer network for conservation activities. Develop capacity of local officials and community leaders in managing the recently established wildlife sanctuary and in enforcing its rules and regulations.

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1. Calayan rail Wikipedia article -
2. Calayan rail on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

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