Talaud Rail Gymnocrex talaudensis


Justification of Red List Category
This species occupies a very small range wherein it is known from fewer than five locations and its population is thus likely to be numerically constrained. Given evidence of continuing habitat loss and degradation, and consequent population declines, it qualifies as Endangered.

Population justification
A population estimate of 1,000-2,499 individuals has been interpreted from information provided by F. R. Lambert (in litt. 2000), who cautioned that it would be best to assume that its total numbers are low. The subsequent lack of records despite survey work appears to confirm this suspicion. The estimate equates to 667-1,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 600-1,700 mature individuals.

Trend justification
A lack of records hinders evaluation of this species's population trend. However, localised habitat conversion, hunting and possibly rat predation are suspected to be causing an unquantified decline.

Distribution and population

Gymnocrex talaudensis is apparently endemic to Karakelang, in the Talaud Islands, north of Halmahera, Indonesia (BirdLife International 2001). According to local reports, it is widespread and fairly common on the island, but absent from others in the archipelago. Despite prolonged fieldwork, however, only one sighting has been made in the years following its discovery, and evidence suggests that it is either genuinely scarce or extremely elusive.


It appears to favour long wet grassland patches and rank vegetation at the edge of forest in the lowlands. Within 150 m of the site of its discovery there was littoral swamp-forest, small remnant patches of forest, two permanent marshy areas, several streams and wet roadside ditches with lush grass, suggesting that it prefers a mosaic of wetland habitats. Five records of calling birds in 2003 attributed to this species were all from primary riverine forest (Riley 2003). The extent of its reliance on forest is unclear.


In 1996, Karakelang still retained a diversity and abundance of wetland habitats, in particular rank grasslands bordering forest. Meanwhile, land-use changes (e.g. agricultural development, transmigration), trapping for food and rat predation were not thought to represent significant problems for the species. Given the paucity of sightings, it may be numerically constrained and under unidentified threat (probably involving factors listed above). The Karakelang Wildlife Reserve, where it is likely that this species occurs, is threatened with clearance for agriculture, small-scale local logging, unsustainable hunting and commercial mineral and timber extraction, although mainly at low levels at present.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
No measures have yet been taken. Although 350 km2 of primary forest has some form of protected status on Karakelang, 250 km2 as a Wildlife Reserve, there is, at present, no management of these sites (Riley 2003). Since 1995, the Action Sampiri project has been conducting fieldwork and conservation awareness programmes on the island. Introducing adequate protection measures to the newly gazetted Wildlife Reserve is the focus of a forthcoming four-year GEF project.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Search other islands in the Talaud group (e.g. Salibabu and Kabaruan). Conduct comprehensive surveys of Karakelang within the Wildlife Reserve, to clarify its distribution, status, ecological requirements and attendant threats, and to identify appropriate areas wherein populations might be effectively protected. Continue conservation awareness programmes to highlight the plight of this species and increase local support for its preservation.


Size undocumented (c.33-35 cm). Large, robust rail. Deep-based, longish yellow bill. Maroon-chestnut head, neck and breast, bright red iris and contrasting silvery-white bare skin behind eye. Greenish-olive upperparts, blackish underparts. Yellow legs and feet. Similar spp. Talaud Bush-hen Amaurornis magnirostris and Plain Bush-hen A. olivaceus have drab olive-brown and grey plumage, lacking white patch behind eye, and shorter, dull greenish-olive bills. Voice Only documented as probable, a series of at least 15 rapid, high-pitched peet-peet-peet calls, perhaps in alarm. Hints Shy and secretive.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Taylor, J., Bird, J., Tobias, J., Westrip, J.

Eaton, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Gymnocrex talaudensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/07/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/07/2020.