Samoan Moorhen Pareudiastes pacificus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has not been seen since 1873, and is likely to have been extirpated by introduced cats, rats, pigs and dogs, compounded by hunting. Although recent intensive surveys have found no evidence of the species, it is plausible that a tiny remaining population persists, and it is retained 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 1873, and the results of recent targeted surveys concluding that it is extinct (Butler 2012, Pratt and Mittermeier 2016).

Trend justification
With no definite records since 1873, the population trend is essentially unknown.

Distribution and population

Pareudiastes pacificus is endemic to Savai`i, Samoa, where it is known from three specimens and an egg collected between 1869 and 1873 (Taylor and van Perlo 1998, Steadman 2006). In 1984 there were two possible sightings in upland forest west of Mt Elietoga (Bellingham and Davis 1988), and in 2003 a possible sighting of two individuals at 990 m on Mount Silisili (D. Hobcroft in litt. 2003). An intensive survey in 2012 above Asau towards Mt Maugaloa, above Aopo on the trail to Mt Mata o Le Afi and beyond to Mt Silisili and several craters nearer the centre of the island found no evidence of the species (Butler 2012). A concerted effort in the Savai'i highlands yielded no record of the species and no reports from local villagers in A’opo and Sili (Pratt and Mittermeier 2016). Serra et al. (2016) received two reports from local hunters of terrestrial birds that hid in holes, but such reports have long been assumed to refer to petrels (Mayr 1945, Pratt and Mittermeier 2016). Although there are still significant areas in which searches for this bird have not been undertaken, this survey tends to confirm the view that it is extinct (Butler 2012) and it was concluded extinct by Pratt and Mittermeier (2016). 


It is restricted to primary montane forest and most probably feeds on invertebrates, including insects. It may dig or live in burrows. One nest is described: it was found on the ground, constructed of a few twigs and some grass, and containing two eggs (Pratt et al. 1987, Bellingham and Davis 1988, Taylor and van Perlo 1998). It has exceptionally large eyes and may thus be nocturnal (Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Pratt and Mittermeier (2016) suggest that it might be a lowland species which never inhabited the highlands.


The introduction of cats and rats, and possibly pigs and dogs, are most likely to have caused its disappearance, and hunting may also have been a factor as it was apparently a favoured food of the human population (Bellingham and Davis 1988, Taylor and van Perlo 1998). Slash-and-burn cultivation threatens remaining areas of upland forest on Savai`i, as farmers use forestry roads from heavily logged lowland forests to gain access to formerly inaccessible land (Bellingham and Davis 1988). Wild cattle and pigs have browsed the understorey and ground-cover along the main range (Bellingham and Davis 1988). In 2000, attempts were being made by sawmill operators to clear-fell the area south of Aopo village, the site where this species was last seen (U. Beichle in litt. 2000). A new road had been apparently bulldozed through the forest into the highlands by 2012 (Butler 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
An intensive biodiversity survey of Savai'i was conducted in May 2012 which failed to find this species (Butler 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Prevent further access routes into the upper forest being created and investigate the eradication of invasive species, prioritising cats and rats (Butler 2012). Conduct sound analysis of recordings from the 2012 survey (K. Swinnerton in litt. 2016).


25 cm. Medium-sized, flightless rail. Dark blueish-slate head, neck and breast. Very dark olive-brown upperparts, tinged greenish. Black rump to tail. Yellow bill and frontal shield. Red legs. Similar spp. Half-grown feral chickens have dark bills and no frontal shield. Juvenile Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio is much the same size and colour, but with much longer legs and toes.


Text account compilers
Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Stattersfield, A., Symes, A., Martin, R., Westrip, J., Benstead, P., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Bird, J., Derhé, M.

Atherton, J., Beichle, U., Butler, D., Freifeld, H., Hobcroft, D., Stirnemann, R. & Swinnerton, K.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Pareudiastes pacificus. Downloaded from on 06/06/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 06/06/2020.