Is this an outstanding year for crakes and rails for some reason?

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Is this an outstanding year for crakes and rails for some reason?
From: David Adams <>
Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2013 14:31:30 +1100
I'm going to add a bit more to this thread and ask for a bit of help
regarding the preferred/ideal habitats for the rails and crakes of southern

I'm located north of Bermagui on the far south coast of NSW where there's a
very tiny wetland - about 12m across - that I've been monitoring. I've
looked in on this spot off-and-on for nine years and this is the first year
that I've seen any crakes. There seem to be at least three resident Spotted
and we've also seen 1 Spotless and a Baillon's on two occasions. There's
also a resident Buff-banded Rail and more Buff-banded Rails on a larger
nearby body of water. This morning, I saw a Buff-banded Rail along the
shores of a tidal lake where I've never seen one before.

Given the number of reports from people on this list regarding rail and
crake sightings around the country, it seems that this really has been an
outstanding year for these species. As pointed out, this could easily be
overstated if the birds are simply easier to see this year for some reason
or combination of reasons - but the reports are from so many locations that
it seems reasonable to suspect that they're also doing really well.

After seeing the Buff-banded Rail this morning, my wife wondered if there
are so many birds that the ideal habitats are already occupied and so some
birds are pushing out into new areas and less ideal habitats. With that
question in mind, can anyone offer some details on what exactly the various
species of birds prefer? Here are my impressions so far from my limited

* Australian Spotted Crake
Likes exposed mud in or very near to reeds with fresh water.

* Spotted Crake
No idea. Fast, secretive - only saw it once. It was sticking to dry
reedy/tussock grass areas near fresh water.

* Baillon's Crake
Shy - seems to like fresh water and spends more time on reeds than on mud.

* Buff-banded Rail
I've seen this in a lot of habitats and locations here and abroad (they're
more common than chooks in Samoa) and they can be quite tame. My impression
is that they like fresh-water habitats near grass but this morning I saw
one on mud flats adjacent to salt water. Do they like salt water?

* Lewin's Rail
Someone please tell me where they like to be as I'd love to see one ;-)

My impressions are just personal field notes and hopelessly incomplete. So,
I'm hoping for other impressions, observations and known details to fill in
the picture a bit. Given that this is such a good year for these often hard
to see birds, I'm trying to learn as much as I can while they're around.

Also, who eats the crakes? The small wetland I've been watching is near to
a much larger body of water with plenty of exposed mud and reeds. Yet I'm
seeing no crakes. I'm wondering if the crakes are avoided this area because
they're more vulnerable  I thought that I'd heard that Purple Swamphen will
eat Baillon's, but the Spotted Crake seems to forage quite contentedly near
Purple Swamphens and their chicks.

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