Gallirallus wakensis

Wake Rail
(Gallirallus wakensis)

syn. Hypotaenidia wakensis, Rallus wakensis


Wake Atoll: Wake Island, Wilkes Island

local name: -

size: ca. 22 - 25 cm (length)

extinction date: between 1942 and 1945

Wake Island is a small atoll in the Pacific Ocean, consisting of the three larger islets Peale-, Wake- and Wilkes Island as well as some smaller islets.

Since the end of World War II Wake Island is an US-American military base. Seen through bird's-eye view the viewer immediately sees the giant airbase.

Beside many seabirds the atoll once harbored an endemic rail species. This lived only on the two islands of Wake Island and Wilkes Island, but was apparently absent from Peales Island.

The Wake Island Rail was described by Lionel Walter Rothschild is in the year 1903 as Hypotaenidia wakensis.

Later, in the year 1923 the species was mentioned for the second time. From July 27. to August 5., 1923, the 'Tanager Expedition' stayed on Wake Island to study the native plants and animals. Frank Alexander Wetmore, an well known ornithologist and member of the expedition, wrote some lines about the Wake Island Rail during that time.:

August 2. These birds seem very sedentary. Those that I take on sandy areas where there is only scattered areas of shade, are very worn and pale color above, those from certain sections where there are extensive dead-falls have the wing feathers worn and abraded, apparently from their use in climbing about. This is true though more suitable areas where conditions are less severe may be found near at hand. The wing claw in this species is very large and strong.

During the World War II the atoll was occupied by japanese troups. These were cut off from their supply chain during the war. Now they have to provide themselves with food, and so the well tasting, easy to catch - because completely flightless, Wake Island Rails came just right. But the soldier's appetite was big, to big for the small Rail population.

After the end of the Second World War the Wake Island Rail was dissappeared.


- Dieter Luther: Die ausgestorbenen Vögel der Welt. Westarp Wissenschaften 1986
- Errol Fuller: Extinct Birds. Penguin Books (England) 1987
- Barry Taylor, Ber van Perlo: Rails: A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World. Yale University Press 1998
- David W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University Of Chicago Press 2006