Re: Gerry Richards' Solomon Islands Trip report

To: Trevor Quested <>
Subject: Re: Gerry Richards' Solomon Islands Trip report
From: Michael Todd <>
Date: Sun, 22 Mar 1998 22:41:35 +1100
Trevor Quested wrote:

> Solomon Islands trip report 29-6-96 to 21-7-96
> by Gerry Richards, 15/5 Lister Avenue, Rockdale, NSW, Australia
> Guadalcanal
> Mt Austen A very good area for birds only a few kilometers
> from Honiara. We drove here but it should be easy to arrange a
> taxi to take you there and to bring you back. From Honiara head
> towards the airport, and turn right a couple of kilometers east of
> town. This junction has a bakery (open early for breakfast) on one
> corner and a SDA church on the other. Continue straight ahead,
> ignoring all turnoffs to the left and right until you reach a
> lookout at the top of a hill. The road  continues steeply downhill
> from here but is very overgrown. We parked at the lookout and
> walked down the road, almost to the river at the bottom. Habitat
> is mostly second growth with a few clearings. We saw a Rail on the
> track here on two occasions that we have not been able to
> identify. It was about the size of a Buff-banded Rail with a long,
> thick based, decurved bill and a short erect tail. Head, neck and
> underparts were mid grey, the mantle and wings dark slate grey. I
> would be most interested in any further information about this
> bird. Other notable species at this site included: Finschs Pygmy-
> Parrot, Ducorps Cockatoo, Buff-headed Coucal, Ultramarine
> Kingfisher, Blyth's Hornbill, Black-headed Myzomela, Solomon
> Cuckoo-Shrike and Midget  Flowerpecker.

  Hello Trevor and others,

I was very interested in your posting of this trip report from the
Solomon Islands. Having lots of interest in Pacific Island birds
(particularly rails), but no experience whatsoever of them, I was
wondering whether you had an opinion on what bird this mysterious rail
was- or for that matter whether anyone else has an opinion on what it
might have been.

I assume that it wasn't the Roviana Rail as he mentions that elsewhere
in his report as he does the Buff-banded Rail. Could it have been
Woodford's Rail (Rallus poecilopterus woodfordi  or Nesoclopeus
woodfordi, depends on the classification)? Ripley (1977) lists
Woodford's Rail from Guadalcanal but states that it is only known from
the type specimen. Diamond (1987) speculated that it was extinct on
Guadalcanal. Webb (1992) reports having found it on three occasions on
Santa Isabel also in the Solomons. Plumage of the nominate subspecies
the Barredwing Rail from Fiji is described by Ripley (1977) as dark
brown above, slate grey below. Woodford's Rail he describes as being
generally darker. Webb (1992) reports it as being very dark, the
upperparts appearing black with a rufous wash, while the breast was dull

The description doesn't match exactly but its pretty close, particularly
if Gerry Richard's observations were in poor light (I'm stretching!).
The long, decurved bill is a bit of a worry as all references I've seen
suggest that it has a stout strong bill. Even so, are there any other
rail species that have been found on Guadalcanal? I don't have access to
any field guides on Pacific Island birds.

Does anybody have any ideas on this mysterious rail?

A curious Michael

S.D.Ripley. Rails of the World. A Monograph of the Family Rallidae.
M.F.Feheley Publishers Limited, Toronto, 1977.
J.M.Diamond. Extant unless proven extinct? Or extinct unless proven
extant?. Conservation Biology 1:77-79, 1987.
H. P. Webb. Field observations of the birds of Santa Isabel, Solomon
Islands. Emu 92 (1):52-56, 1992.

Michael Todd,
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Newcastle,
Callaghan, N.S.W., Australia, 2308

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