Overview

Brief Summary

The Guam Rail (Gallirallus owstoni) is a flightless bird, endemic only to the United States territory of Guam.  In the Chamoru language, used on Guam, it is known as Ko'ko'.  Before 1960 it was common, though it has a secretive lifestyle living in scrubby secondary growth or mixed forest.  The Guam Rail disappeared from southern Guam in the early 1970’s and was extirpated from the entire island by 1987 due to the accidental late-1940’s introduction of the brown tree snake Boiga irregularis.  Department of Agriculture biologist Bob Beck found that Guam rails breed well in captivity and established a breeding program which keeps birds at the Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources on Guam and at 15 mainland U.S. zoos.  Captive grown rails were reintroduced to Guam in 1998 with no long-term success, and subsequently introduced to the snake-free island of Rota (Northern Mariana Islands), where two small breeding populations were able to persist despite hunting pressure from feral cats.  In 2011 birds were also introduced to the island of Cocos, where they appear to be breeding.

The Guam rail is a medium-sized rail about 28 cm (11 in) in total length. The body is elongated and laterally compressed, particularly in the neck and breast regions, allowing the birds to move rapidly through dense vegetation. Males are slightly larger than females but have similar appearance with brown head and back, a dark breast barred with white, grey eye stripe and dark brown legs and beak. Gallirallus owstoni are generalists; they eat slugs, snails, lizards, insects, carrion and plant matter such as seeds, leaves, flowers and grasses.  They nest year-round on the ground, with a usual clutch size of 3-4 eggs.  They are territorial, usually silent but will give a loud whistle or series of whistles in response to the call of another bird or a disturbance.  (BirdLife International 2012; Fritts and Leasman-Tanner 2001; Wikipedia 2013)

Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

© Dana Campbell

Supplier: Dana Campbell

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

Range Description

Gallirallus owstoni is endemic to Guam (to USA), where it was widely distributed until 1968 when, along with most other indigenous species, it started to decline (Jaffe 1994). In 1981, the population was estimated at c.2,000, in 1983 it was reckoned to number fewer than 100 and, by 1987, it was extirpated from the wild (Witteman et al. (1990). It survives in captive-breeding facilities in Guam and in 15 zoos in the USA (c.159 birds in total) (Ross et al. 2011). It was reintroduced to Guam in 1998 but a rapid population decline was observed during 2000-2002 and no rails have been detected since, either in the predator free zone (Area 50, 24 hectares) or the snake reduced open landscape (Wenninger in litt. 2007). From 1989-2007 853 captive reared rails were released on nearby Rota, Northern Mariana Islands (to USA), though this has experienced mixed success, with some populations rapidly declining to extinction, there is currently an expanding population of 40-60 individuals in the Duge area and another of 20 birds at Apanon (Wenninger in litt. 2007). In 2011, 16 rails were released on Cocos Island, a small island off the southern tip of Guam, after rats were eradicated from the island. Evidence of breeding has been observed (F. Amidon in litt. 2012).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Historic Range:
Western Pacific Ocean_U.S.A. (Guam)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Range

Forests of Guam (s Mariana Islands). On verge of extinction.

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This flightless species was widely distributed in most habitats on Guam, including forest, savanna, scrub, secondary grassland, fern thickets and agricultural areas (Pratt et al. 1987) (but not in freshwater wetland habitats [Taylor and van Perlo 1998]). It foraged along field edges and roadsides (never far from cover) for snails, slugs, insects, geckos, vegetable matter, seeds and flowers from low grasses and shrubs, and also the introduced giant African snail Achatina fulica which became an important part of the diet (Taylor 1996). It breeds throughout the year (birds attaining sexual maturity at four months) with a peak period during the rains in July-November (Haig et al. 1993). Nests are located on dry ground in dense grass, and clutch-size is 1-4, usually 3-4 (Taylor 1996).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Gallirallus owstoni

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EW
Extinct in the Wild

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s
Amidon, F., Lepson, J., Wenninger, P. & Wiles, G.

Justification
The last individual in the wild of this species died in 1987 following catastrophic declines owing to predation by the introduced brown tree-snake. A captive population survives in a snake-proof enclosure, and it breeds well in captivity. It remains classified as Extinct in the Wild until an introduced population becomes firmly established.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 04/11/1984
Lead Region:   Pacific Region (Region 1)   
Where Listed: except Rota

Status: Experimental Population, Non-Essential
Date Listed: 10/30/1989
Lead Region:   Pacific Region (Region 1)   
Where Listed: Rota


Population detail:

Population location: Entire, except Rota
Listing status: E

Population location: Rota
Listing status: EXPN

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Gallirallus owstoni, see its USFWS Species Profile

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Threats

Major Threats
Its decline and extinction in the wild is the result of predation by the introduced brown tree snake Boiga irregularis (Savidge 1987). Reasons for the failure of some of the introduction attempts on Rota are not known, but predation by feral cats was responsible for the failure of the reintroduction attempts on Guam (Wenninger in litt. 2007) and so feral cat control has been included as a recommended measure in the Rota release programme (F. Amidon in litt. 2012).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
Captive breeding started in 1984. Since 1987, efforts have been under way to establish a self-sustaining, experimental population on the nearby snake-free island of Rota (Haig et al. 1993). In 1999, birds bred there for the first time (K. Brock per G. Wiles in litt. 1999); birds have since been released at four sites and success has been mixed (Wenninger in litt. 2007). In late 1998, some captive-reared birds were released in northern Guam, into a small area (24 ha) protected from snakes by a barrier and trapping, and though these birds were breeding (K. Brock per G. Wiles in litt. 1999), this population is now extinct (Wenninger in litt. 2007). In 2011, 16 rails were released on Cocos Island, a small island off the southern tip of Guam, after rats were eradicated from the island. Evidence of breeding has been observed (F. Amidon in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue the captive-breeding programme. Control B. irregularis and feral cats F. catus on Guam so that more introductions can take place (K. Brock per G. Wiles in litt. 1999). Undertake large-scale feral cat control program on Rota. Continue to manage the released populations on Rota to maximise the retention of the species's genetic diversity (K. Brock per G. Wiles in litt. 1999). Implement stringent measures to prevent the spread of B. irregularis from Guam to Rota. Before considering another reintroduction to Guam, control feral cats.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

Guam Rail

The Guam Rail (Gallirallus owstoni) (Chamorro name: Ko'ko' [2]) is a flightless bird, endemic to the United States territory of Guam. The Guam Rail disappeared from southern Guam in the early 1970s and was extirpated from the entire island by the late 1980s. This species is now being bred in captivity by the Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources on Guam and at some mainland U.S. zoos. Since 1995, more than 100 rails have been introduced on the island of Rota in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in an attempt to establish a wild breeding colony. Although at least one chick resulted from these efforts, predation (largely by feral cats) and accidental deaths have been extremely high. A small number of birds potentially persists.

Background[edit]

Nine of the 11 species of native forest-dwelling birds have been extirpated from Guam. Five of these were endemic at the species or subspecies level and are now extinct on Guam. Two of these species, the Guam Rail and the Micronesian Kingfisher, are being captively bred in zoos in the hope that they can eventually be released back into the wild. Several other native species exist in precariously small numbers, and their future on Guam is perilous. Most native forest species, including the Guam rail, were virtually extinct when they were listed as threatened or endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1984.

Description[edit]

The Guam rail is a flightless species endemic or unique and only found in the island of Guam. It is a medium sized rail about 28 cm in total length. The body is elongated and laterally compressed, particularly in the neck and breast regions, allowing the birds to move rapidly through dense vegetation. The plumage or feather color and pattern of both sexes is similar, however males can often be distinguished by their larger size. The head and back are brown. It has a grey eye stripe and throat and a dark blackish breast with white barring. The legs and beak are dark brown. This species is a generalist, preferring animal over vegetable matter.

Behavior and habitat[edit]

The Guam rail is a secretive, flightless, territorial species that is most easily observed as it bathes or feeds along roadsides or field edges. The call is a loud, piercing whistle or series of whistles, usually given by two or more birds in response to a loud noise, the call of another rail, or other disturbances. Though individuals will respond almost invariably to the call of another rail, the species is generally silent. It is one of the few native birds of Guam that was found more frequently in scrubby second growth or mixed forest than in uniform tracts of mature forest, and might have been more abundant before the arrival of humans.

It is a year-round ground nester making it highly susceptible to predators, such as monitor lizards and rats. It lays 2-4 four eggs and both parents share in the construction of a shallow nest of leaves and grass. They mature at six months of age and have been known to produce up to 10 clutches per year in captivity.

Diet[edit]

It is omnivorous but appears to prefer animal over vegetable food. It is known to eat gastropods, skinks, geckos, insects, and carrion as well as seeds and palm leaves.

Threats[edit]

The Guam rail was abundant on the island with a population estimated to be around 70,000 before the 1960s. It evolved in the absence of predators such as snakes and rats. It was so common that it was hunted for food. After the end of World War II, the Brown tree snake was accidentally transported from its native range in Papua New Guinea to Guam, probably as a stowaway in military ship cargo. Beginning in the 1960s, the snake became well established as numbers began to grow exponentially and the rail populations plummeted along with the rest of Guam's native avifauna. The Guam rail had no experience with such a predator and lacked protective behaviors against the snake. Consequently, it was an easy prey for this efficient, nocturnal predator.

Appreciable losses of the Guam rail was not evident until the mid 1960s. By 1963, several formerly abundant rails had disappeared from the central part of the island where snakes were most populous. By the late 1960s, it had begun to decline in the central and southern parts of the island and remained abundant only in isolated patches of forest on the northern end of the island. Snakes began affecting the rail in the north-central and extreme northern parts of the island in the 1970s and 1980s, respectively. The population declined severely from 1969 to 1973 and continued to decline until the mid 1980s. It was last seen in the wild in 1987.

Conservation efforts[edit]

Ceremonial statue of a Guam Rail (Ko'ko), presented as a gift by the Government of Guam.

Zoologist Bob Beck, a Guam Department of Agriculture Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources wildlife supervisor, is credited with leading the efforts to capture the remaining wild Guam rails, Micronesian Kingfishers and other native birds to save them from extinction.[2] His efforts to save the Guam rail began in 1982 and lasted more than 20 years.[2] Beck was considered to be instrumental in capturing the remaining population of Guam rails and establishing captive breeding programs for the species on Guam.[2] He later established a release site and an introduced breeding population of Guam rails on the neighboring island of Rota in the Northern Mariana Islands.[2]

Beck was also a driving force in establishing Guam rail breeding programs in zoos throughout the mainland United States.[2] Beck's Guam rail breeding program initially began with just three zoos in the U.S. - the Bronx Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo and the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.[2] The program proved to be successful and was soon expanded to include other zoos. Seventeen zoos now participate in the Guam rail breeding program, as of 2008,[2] including the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, the San Diego Zoo, the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, and zoos in Chicago, Houston and San Antonio.[2]

The efforts by Beck, and others, to save the Guam rail have been promising. There are now approximately 120 Guam rails in captivity in Guam and approximately 35 birds in captive breeding programs throughout the United States.[2] Biologist Gary Wiles, who worked on the Guam rail breeding program from 1981 through 2000, said of Beck's efforts to save the Guam rail, "Bob was one of the first to begin organizing catching the birds so they could be brought into captivity, held there and bred. He started a captive population. We still have Guam rails today because of his efforts."[2] Suzanne Medina, a wildlife biologist, also credited Beck with saving the Guam rail, "Bob Beck was the ko'ko' champion, was Guam's champion at the time for preventing the extinction of these birds."[2]

A recent effort to introduce rails on Guam in a 22 hectare forested area concentrated on protecting the rails by limiting snakes using a combination of trapping and a perimeter barrier to reduce re-invasion by snakes. This endeavor allowed the tentative survival of several pairs of rails released into the area. Reproduction by the rails was reported in this control area on the basis of sounds attributed to chicks. The preliminary success constitutes one of the few bright spots in the conservation of Guam's native fauna in recent years and speaks to future opportunities to recover wildlife. [1]

In November 2010, 16 Guam Rails were released on Cocos Island, a 33 hectare small atoll 1 mile off the coast of the southern tip of Guam as part of its reintroduction two decades after its extinction in the wild. It was an effort to provide safe nesting areas for the rails, as well as a place for the public to see them in the wild. Before the reintroduction, rats were eradicated off the island and the forest was further enhanced with native trees. A native lizard survey was conducted to make sure that the rails had enough food to eat. Monitor lizard populations were reduced to minimize their impacts of the newly released rails. The reintroduction proved to be successful as evidence of breeding have been observed. This will provide a model environment to develop strategies for future reintroductions as well as expertise in rodent and snake detection, eradication, and bio-security measures.[3]

References[edit]

Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!