The Galapagos rail, also known as the Galapagos crake, is a small (15cm), secretive, yet tame, ground-living bird endemic to the Islands. It is a poor flier and has only been recorded flying distances of just a few metres, making it extremely vulnerable to introduced species such as cats and rats.
Its population is also threatened by habitat destruction as a result of introduced cattle and goats. Encouragingly, once these species are removed, and native vegetation is allowed to recover, Galapagos rails are quick to recolonise. Native vegetation provides the perfect environment for attracting their favourite foods, invertebrates, and they can often be seen tossing leaf litter to unearth a variety of insects, as well as seeds.
It has a slate grey plumage throughout, apart from a slight chocolatey brown on its back and specks of white on its wings and flanks. The legs, feet and bill of the rail are all dark, whilst the eyes are a bright red. They lay around five to six eggs, which are cream with fine speckling. The eggs are covered in a ground nest amongst vegetation. Breeding occurs from September through to April.
Where to see them: Previously found throughout most vegetation zones, today Galapagos rails are found only in the highlands of the major islands. They are but presumed extinct on Floreana due to invasive species (see our Restoring Floreana programme).
When to see them: All year round.
Threats: Invasive species, including predators such as rats, cats, dogs and pigs, but also introduced cattle and goats which destroy the rail’s habitat.
Conservation actions: GCT is currently supporting Island Conservation in their efforts to restore Floreana island back to its former ecological glory, with the long-term goal of reintroducing extinct species, such as the Galapagos rail.