Rouget's Rail Rougetius rougetii


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is thought to be declining moderately rapidly owing to the modification of its habitats. Further data on population trends may show that the species qualifies for a higher threat category.

Population justification
Dodman (2005) estimated the population to number fewer than 10,000 individuals, and so it is placed here in the band 2,500-9,999 individuals. This equates to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction.

Distribution and population

Rougetius rougetii is widespread in the highlands of Ethiopia, and much less widespread in those of Eritrea, from 1,500 to 4,100 m (Taylor and van Perlo 1998; Urban et al. 1986). It appears to have maintained its distribution but to have suffered a reduction in numbers (Ash and Gullick 1989; EWNHS (1996). Thus, during field surveys of Important Bird Areas in Ethiopia (1995-1996), it was considered uncommon or present only in small numbers at seven sites, and not uncommon or fairly common at two sites (EWNHS 1996). This contrasts with earlier records which refer to the species as widespread and common to locally abundant (Urban et al. 1986). It is very rare in Eritrea, with the last 3 birds recorded in 2011 (R. Teklay in litt. 2016).


Behaviour This species is presumed to be sedentary in the absence of any evidence of migratory or dispersive movements (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is generally monogamous and solitary, although some degree of cooperative breeding may take place (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It breeds from March to October (Taylor and van Perlo 1998; del Hoyo et al. 1996). Habitat Breeding It breeds in marshy areas within high altitude montane grasslands and moorlands (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is found in areas with lush grass, reeds, tussocks and bushes along streams, around ponds and in Alchemilla bogs (Taylor and van Perlo 1998; del Hoyo et al. 1996). Non-breeding During the non-breeding season it is also found on dry ground among heaths and Alchemilla and adapts well to human-modified habitats such as lawns, shrubberies and thickets in parks and gardens (Taylor and van Perlo; 1998). In urban areas it is attracted to feed in areas where the grass has been recently mown, and often occurs in ditches and drainage channels in grass (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). It has also been recorded in relatively sparse cover along polluted streams (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). It has been recorded foraging in open meadows, on bare mud and in shallow water (Urban et al. 1986; del Hoyo et al. 1996). Diet It has a wide diet, including seeds and aquatic insects (especially water beetles; Urban et al. 1986), as well as crustaceans, small snails (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and earthworms (Taylor and van Perlo 1998) Breeding site The nest is a pad of dead rushes on wet ground among high rushes, in rushes over water, or in grass tussocks (Taylor and van Perlo 1998; del Hoyo et al. 1996). A clutch usually consists of four or five eggs (del Hoyo et al. 1996).


Although it can survive in heavily grazed and highly disturbed wet pasture, intensive grazing and mowing for building material, throughout the densely populated highlands, may be the cause of its apparent population reduction (Ash and Gullick 1989) owing to loss of vegetation cover making habitats unsuitable for use by the species (del Hoyo et al. 1996). In addition, grasslands are being converted to cereal fields, and droughts are likely to have had a negative effect on the species (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Uncontrolled developmental projects in Eritrea may be the cause of its scarcity there by causing habitat destruction and modification (R. Teklay in litt. 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
No actions are known for this species.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor rates of habitat loss within its range. Protect areas of important habitat.


Text account compilers
O'Brien, A., Robertson, P., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.

Tadele, H. & Teklay, R.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Rougetius rougetii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/04/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/04/2020.