New Caledonian Rail Gallirallus lafresnayanus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has not been recorded with certainty since 1890, despite many recent surveys, and it is likely to have extirpated by introduced cats, rats and pigs. However, there were unconfirmed reports in the 1960s and 1984, suggesting that it is possible that it survives in largely inaccessible montane forests. Any remaining population is likely to be tiny, and for these reasons it is treated as Critically Endangered.

Population justification
Any remaining population is assumed to be tiny (numbering fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals), with no definite records since 1890, a series of more recent unconfirmed records notwithstanding.

Distribution and population

Gallirallus lafresnayanus is known from at least 17 specimens taken between 1860 and 1890 from New Caledonia (to France), apparently including Ile des Pins (Fullagar et al. 1982). There are a scattering of later reports from near Mt Panié in the north and the headwaters of Rivière Blanche in the south in the 1960s and in 1984 (on Mt Panié) suggesting that it may yet survive in small numbers (Stokes 1979, Balouet 1986, Ekstrom et al. 2000). However, the failure of many subsequent surveys, including the ongoing conservation action in the Mt Panié massif, to find the species suggests that the species is extinct.


It is presumed to have inhabited evergreen forest with similar ecological requirements to Kagu Rhynochetos jubatus (Ekstrom et al. 2000, 2002). Historical records have been from near sea-level to c.1,000 m, but recent reports have been from inaccessible montane forests, presumably as these areas have fewer introduced mammalian predators. Although two recent reports from marshland seem unlikely (Ekstrom et al. 2000), it has been suggested that this habitat may be the last refuge from dogs and pigs (J. Morel in Ekstrom et al. 2000). It probably feeds on a variety of invertebrates including earthworms (Taylor 1998).


It is likely to have been extirpated from depredation by introduced species such as cats, pigs and rats which now occur throughout the island. Many historical records are of birds caught by hunting dogs (Stokes 1979, Fullagar et al. 1982, Ekstrom et al. 2000).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
This species may be benefiting from the conservation action for Rhynochetos jubatus, particularly the control of introduced mammalian predators (Ekstrom et al. 2000). The only measures of the sort currently being implemented are in the Rivière Bleue Park, where the occurrence of the rail is very unlikely. No new records of the species have been obtained despite 500 man-days spent doing bird censuses in forested areas of the central mountains. 120 locals interviewed between 2003 and 2006 did not provide any credible reports.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct further intensive surveys in remote forests (Ekstrom et al. 2000), although these should be cost effective and not divert funding away from conservation of other threatened habitats and species. Search other areas with high population densities of R. jubatus, another flightless bird, as these areas may have avoided the pressures that have caused the species's decline elsewhere. Include this species in the predator-control and public awareness programmes for R. jubatus in Rivière Bleue Park. Publicise the search for this species amongst forest workers and villagers (Ekstrom et al. 2000).


44cm. Large, plain, flightless rail. Dull brown upperparts, greyer underparts, dull yellow, long decurved bill, and short, horn-coloured legs. Similar spp. Buff-banded Rail G. philippensis has barred black-and-white underparts and striped head. Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio has short, stout bill and black or purple plumage. Female Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus is mottled brown with fairly long tail and very short bill. Voice Unknown. Hints Investigate any rails heard in remote forests. It may be crepuscular or nocturnal.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Derhé, M., Dutson, G., Ekstrom, J., Stattersfield, A., Symes, A. & Martin, R

Chartendrault, V., Ekstrom, J., Rouys, S., Spaggiari, J. & Theuerkauf, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Gallirallus lafresnayanus. Downloaded from on 22/11/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/11/2019.