Wake Rail Hypotaenidia wakensis


Justification of Red List Category
This species was known from Wake Island in the United States Minor Outlying Islands, but went Extinct in the mid-1940s, being last recorded in 1945 and never seen by an observer who took up residence in 1946. It is thought to have been hunted to extinction by Japanese soldiers that were stranded on the island.

Population justification
No extant population remains.

Distribution and population

Hypotaenidia wakensis was endemic to Wake Island in the central Pacific Ocean, United States Minor Outlying Islands (to U.S.A.). Although it was not uncommon before the Second World War, it was extinct by 1946 (Greenway 1967).


The species inhabited scrub throughout the island. It fed by digging up leaves and soil with its head, being observed to take seeds, insects, small lizards and hermit crabs (Wetmore 1970, Olson 1996). Accounts suggest it bred between July and August, with the nest constructed as a saucer-like depression in the ground (Spencer 1959, Olson and Rauzon 2011). It had an unusual communal breeding system, with young attended and defended by groups of adults until well after hatching, presumably as an adaptation against potential nest predation by rats and crabs (Olson and Rauzon 2011).


It was presumably eaten to extinction by the starving Japanese garrison between 1942 and 1945 (Greenway 1967). Occasional inundations of the island during storms are also thought to have caused considerable mortality. The species is likely to have coexisted with rats since prehistoric times, and despite some suggestions it is not thought that rat predation was a factor in its extinction (Olson and Rauzon 2011).


Text account compilers
Brooks, T., Khwaja, N. & Mahood, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Hypotaenidia wakensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/03/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/03/2019.