Madagascar Rail Rallus madagascariensis


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Vulnerable because its population is small and undergoing a continuing decline owing to the accelerating destruction and modification of its wetland habitats. The population is suspected to undergo a moderately fast future decline.

Population justification
The species's population is estimated to number 2,500-10,000 individuals (F. Hawkins in litt. 2002 to Wetlands International 2002). This roughly equates to 1,600-6,700 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species's population is inferred to be declining due to ongoing habitat loss owing to transformation of its aquatic and wet forest habitats by agricultural and logging activities (Kull 2012). The likely rate of future decline is suspected to fall in the 30-49% band.

Distribution and population

Rallus madagascariensis occupies suitable habitat up to 1,800 m in eastern Madagascar where it is generally rare but locally not uncommon (Langrand 1990, Morris and Hawkins 1998, Safford 2013). Its population is estimated to number 2,500-10,000 total individuals.


Behaviour No evidence has been found to support the suggestion that this is a migratory species (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998). It is a secretive bird, usually found alone or in pairs (Langrand 1990). It mainly breeds during the months of August-October (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Habitat This species inhabits dense aquatic vegetation of marshes, wet woodlands and river margins (Langrand 1990, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998), from sea level to 1,800 m (Langrand 1990) but more frequently at high altitudes (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It prefers areas in which the vegetation is dominated by long grasses, reeds and sedges (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Diet it feeds mainly on invertebrates in muddy substrates (Langrand 1990, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Breeding site It nests on the ground in thick aquatic vegetation (Langrand 1990, Morris and Hawkins 1998). The nest is undescribed (Taylor and van Perlo 1998).


Habitat loss is the principal threat (Morris and Hawkins 1998); its aquatic and wet forest habitats are rapidly being transformed by agricultural and logging activities (del Hoyo et al. 1996; Kull 2012; D'Urban Jackson et al. 2019).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is found in several protected areas (ZICOMA 1999). No species-specific conservation action is yet in place.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Promote conservation of its habitats through both policy changes and community conservation projects. Better estimate the rate of population decline. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation across its range. Better research its ability to utilise rice paddy fields, and the likely impact of their increase on the species. Increase the area of suitable wetland habitat that receives effective protection by improving the management of current protected areas, and creating new protected areas. 


25 cm. Medium-sized plain brown rail. Rather nondescript plumage (mostly plain brown with some streaks on the upperparts and upper breast) but does show greyish face and throat and white undertail. Bill red, legs dark. Similar spp. Distinguished from similarly sized sympatric Rallidae by long, slender bill, lack of white in throat, unbarred flanks and upperpart colouration.


Text account compilers
Clark, J.

Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.R.S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Rallus madagascariensis. Downloaded from on 03/02/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 03/02/2023.