Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Extinct as Gallirallus philippensis macquariensis
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Rallus philippensis maquariensis.
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument] as Rallus philippensis maquariensis.
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (11/04/2007) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2007f) [Legislative Instrument] as Gallirallus philippensis macquariensis.
List of Migratory Species - Amendment to the list of migratory species under section 209 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (26/11/2013) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013af) [Legislative Instrument] as Rallus philippensis maquariensis.
State Government
    Documents and Websites
TAS:Gallirallus philippensis macquariensis (Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie Island)): Species Management Profile for Tasmania's Threatened Species Link (Threatened Species Section (TSS), 2014up) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
TAS: Listed as Extinct (Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (Tasmania): September 2012 list) as Gallirallus philippensis macquariensis
Non-statutory Listing Status
NGO: Listed as Extinct (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Gallirallus philippensis macquariensis [59314]
Family Rallidae:Gruiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author (Hutton,1879)
Other names Rallus philippensis maquariensis [26041]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Gallirallus philippensis macquariensis

Common name: Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie island)

The Macquarie Island subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis macquariensis) is a conventionally accepted subspecies (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Ornithological Society of New Zealand 1990b). It was previously included in the genus Rallus, but this has since been amended to Gallirallus.

The Macquarie Island subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail was a medium-sized rail (length 30–33 cm, weight 40–52 g) with striking markings, including a rufous band across the breast. The head was chestnut on top with fine blackish streaks. It had a conspicuous white eyebrow and a chestnut eye-stripe (which extended onto the sides of its neck) and whitish or greyish cheeks, chin and throat. The upperparts, including the wings, were olive-brown, patterned with blackish patches and white spots. On the underparts, the breast had fine black and white barring, and a broad rufous band across it. The flanks had similar barring to the breast and the belly was white. The bill was dark pink, the eyes red and the legs and feet were greyish (Heather & Robertson 2000a; Marchant & Higgins 1993; Ripley 1977). Other subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail are usually seen singly, in pairs or in small family groups (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The extinct Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie Island) was endemic to, and occurred only on, subantarctic Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean (Marchant & Higgins 1993). There were so few records of the species that it is unknown whether the species occurred over the whole island. Other subspecies occur on mainland Australia, on outlying islands such as Norfolk, Lord Howe and Cocos-Keeling Islands (Marchant & Higgins 1993). It was presumably extinct by 1894 (Falla 1937a; Hamilton 1894).

The Macquarie Island subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail was endemic to subantarctic Macquarie Island (Marchant & Higgins 1993). Other subspecies are widespread in South-East Asia, from the Philippines to Indonesia and nearby Cocos-Keeling Island, New Guinea, mainland Australia, New Zealand and its outlying islands, and many islands in the south-western Pacific Ocean, from the Solomon Islands east to Tonga and Samoa (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Ripley 1977).

The Macquarie Island subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail is extinct and there is no estimate of the global population of this species. Most of the other subspecies of Buff-banded Rail are secure, though the Cocos-Keeling Islands subspecies G.p. andrewsi is listed as Endangered under the EPBC Act 1999. The population of the New Zealand subspecies G.p. assimilis has declined, mainly due to drainage and other modification of habitat and hunting (which are threats to all populations) while predation by introduced predators is a threat to many island populations (del Hoyo et al. 1996; Heather & Robertson 2000a; Marchant & Higgins 1993).

The rapid decline and subsequent extinction of the Macquarie Island subspecies was caused by predation by introduced species such as rats, Wekas and cats, combined with habitat destruction by the grazing of introduced rabbits (Garnett & Crowley 2000; ISC 2009; Vestjens 1963).

The extinct Macquarie Island subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail was a distinct subspecies of a species that is widespread in South-East Asia and islands in the south-western Pacific Ocean (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Ripley 1977); given its endemism on Macquarie Island, it was geographically separate from other populations, and did not move to other regions.

There have not been any comprehensive surveys for the Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie Island). There have, however, been a number of ornithological surveys on Macquarie Island since this subspecies became extinct, but there has been no sign of this bird. The Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie Island) is known only from three specimens collected in the 19th century and some subfossil remains (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Oliver 1955; Vestjens 1963).

The Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie Island) was formerly considered common (Scott 1872), although no population estimate was ever made (Vestjens 1963).

There were no known subpopulations of this subspecies. The Buff-banded Rail species occurs in several smaller populations, each is considered to be a separate subspecies (Marchant & Higgins 1993; Ripley 1977).

The Macquarie Island subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail has not been seen since 1879 (Vestjens 1963). However, the species is considered secure (Garnett & Crowley 2000), though populations in New Zealand have declined (Heather & Robertson 2000a; Marchant & Higgins 1993).

There is no information regarding the generation length of the Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie Island). The generation time of the closely related Buff-banded Rail (Cocos-Keeling Islands) G.p. andrewsi is estimated to be three years (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

Cross-breeding with other species was not recorded in the wild.

Macquarie Island was designated as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1933 (several decades after the last sighting of the Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie Island)), declared a Nature Reserve in 1978 and listed as a World Heritage Area in 1998 (AAD 2009).

Little is known of the habitat of the extinct Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie Island) other than it inhabited subantarctic tussock grassland (Hamilton 1894).

Nothing is known of the sexual maturity, life expectancy or natural mortality of this extinct subspecies. Other subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail probably breed when 1 year old (Dunlop 1970).

Similarly, nothing is known about the breeding system or breeding success of the subspecies. Other subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail usually nest on the ground, or slightly above it, in tussocks of grass, or among other low or dense vegetation such as rushes, sedges and reeds, or in crops, usually near water. The nest is usually a platform or shallow cup made from grass stems, rushes and other herbage. They usually lay 5–8 cream or buff eggs marked with reddish dots and blotches (Bryant 1951; Dunlop 1970; Elliott 1983; North 1901-14).

Nothing is known of the food of the Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie Island), but other subspecies mostly eat invertebrates such as crustaceans, molluscs, worms and insects, but also occasionally vegetable matter such as seeds, shoots or fruits, and frogs, eggs, carrion and refuse (Dunlop 1970; Elliott 1983; Guthrie-Smith 1925; Marchant & Higgins 1993; Vestjens 1963).

Other subspecies of Buff-banded Rail have been observed foraging on the ground, or taking flying insects just above the ground (Dunlop 1970; Elliott 1983; Stokes et al. 1984). It is likely that the Macquarie Island subspecies had similar feeding behaviours.

The Macquarie Island subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail was possibly sedentary. Other subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail are either resident or dispersive (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

There is nothing known of the home ranges, or territories, of the Macquarie Island subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail. In the New Zealand subspecies (G.p. assimilis), the mean size of breeding territories in Hokianga Harbour is 1.4 ha (Marchant & Higgins 1993).

If viewed clearly, the Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie Island ) would have been readily identified by its distinctive markings. However, as this species occurred in dense tussocks and was probably cryptic, it may possibly have been confused with the Weka (Gallirallus australis), which was repeatedly introduced to Macquarie Island in the 19th century (Brothers & Skira 1983).

This subspecies' detectability is unknown, but the species as a whole is secretive and cryptic, occurs in dense vegetation, and is more often heard than seen (Buddle 1946; Elliott 1983, 1987, 1989; Falla et al. 1975; Gilbert 1936; Marchant & Higgins 1993).

Though the Macquarie Island subspecies of the Buff-banded Rail has been extinct since the late 19th century, if a survey were to be conducted, it should consist of crepuscular point surveys at various sites at least 250 metres apart where the observer listens for calls of Rails rather than looking for birds, or possibly transect listening-surveys; either method would be useful in establishing whether the species was present at a site (Magrath et al. 2004). Both methods have been used successfully to detect the presence of other cryptic or secretive species which inhabit low dense vegetation, such as Ground Parrots (Pezoporus wallicus) (Jordan 1984, 1987b; Watkins 1985) or Noisy Scrub-birds (Atrichornis clamosus) (Smith 1985b; Smith & Forrester 1981). It would be advisable to use taped recordings of Rail calls (recorded from other subspecies) during these surveys (Magrath et al. 2004), as other subspecies of Buff-banded Rails are readily attracted to playback of their calls (Heather & Robertson 2000a). Area searches in suitable habitat for sightings, nests, indicative footprints and feathers may also prove useful (Magrath et al. 2004).

The extinction of the Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie Island) is considered to have resulted from predation by introduced species such as rats, Wekas and cats, combined with habitat destruction by the grazing of introduced rabbits (Garnett & Crowley 2000; ISC 2009; Vestjens 1963). The subspecies co-existed with feral cats on Macquarie Island for at least 70 years, but Wekas were introduced in 1872, and may have preyed on eggs and young. The decline of the subspecies was particularly rapid after 1878, when rabbits became established. It is thought that rabbits reduced the area of suitable habitat by grazing tussocks and enabled the population of cats to increase. Rabbits are scarce in winter and the cats may have hunted the birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The Buff-banded Rail (Macquarie Island) was last recorded in 1879 (Vestjens 1963) and was presumably extinct by 1894; it was not found in that year, or subsequently (Falla 1937a; Hamilton 1894).

The Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000) provides a summary of ecological and biological data for the subspecies and Marchant & Higgins (1993) summarise all that is known about the Buff-banded Rail species.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Gallirallus philippensis macquariensisin Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006lr) [Internet].

Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) (2009). Macquarie Island Station - a brief history. [Online]. Available from:

Brothers, N.P. & I.J. Skira (1983). The Weka on Macquarie Island. Notornis. 31:145-154.

Bryant, C.E. (1951). A query on Landrail behaviour. Emu. 51:73-75.

Buddle, G.A. (1946). A second visit to Poor Knights. Emu. 45:315-318.

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal, eds. (1996). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3, Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

Dunlop, R.R. (1970). Behaviour of the Banded Rail, Rallus philippensis. Sunbird. 1:3-15.

Elliott, G.P. (1983). The Distribution and habitat requirements of the Banded Rail (Rallus philippensis) in Nelson and Marlborough. M.Sc. Thesis. Unpublished MSc thesis, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.

Elliott, G.P. (1987). Habitat use by the Banded Rail. New Zealand Journal of Ecology. 10:109-115.

Elliott, G.P. (1989). The distribution of Banded Rails and Marsh Crakes in coastal Nelson and the Marlborough Sounds. Notornis. 36:117-123.

Falla, R.A. (1937a). British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition 1929-1931. Reports - Series B, Volume 2, Birds. Adelaide: BANZ Antarctic Research Expedition Committee.

Falla, R.A., R.B. Sibson & E.G. Turbott (1975). A Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Collins, Auckland.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from:

Gilbert, P.A. (1936). Some notes on Hypotaenidia philippensis. Emu. 36:10-13.

Guthrie-Smith, H. (1925). Bird Life on Island and Shore. Blackwood, Edinburgh.

Hamilton, A. (1894). Notes on a visit to Macquarie Island. In: Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute. 27:559-579.

Heather, B.D. & H.A. Robertson (2000a). The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Invasive Species Council (ISC) (2009). Invasive species: one of the top three threats to Australian biodiversity. Backgrounder. Page(s) 1-8. [Online]. Available from:

Jordan, R. (1984). The Ground Parrot. Effect of fire on a population. RAOU Report. 11:28-29.

Jordan, R. (1987b). The Ground Parrot in Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. RAOU Report. 27:19-23.

Magrath, M.J.L., M.A. Weston, P. Olsen & M. Antos (2004). Draft Survey Standards for Birds: Species Accounts. Melbourne, Victoria: Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage by Birds Australia.

Marchant, S. & P.J. Higgins, eds. (1993). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 2 - Raptors to Lapwings. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

North, A.J. (1901-1914). Nests and Eggs of Birds Found Breeding in Australia and Tasmania. Sydney, NSW: Australian Museum.

Oliver, W.R.B. (1955). New Zealand Birds. Wellington, New Zealand: Reed.

Ornithological Society of New Zealand (1990b). Annotated Checklist of New Zealand Birds. Reed, Wellington, New Zealand.

Ripley, S.D. (1977). Rails of the World. Toronto, Canada: Feheley Publishers.

Scott, J.H. (1872). Macquarie Island. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute. 15:484-493.

Smith, G.T. (1985b). Population and habitat selection of the Noisy Scrub-bird, Atrichornis clamosus. Australian Wildlife Research. 12:479-485.

Smith, G.T. & R.I. Forrester (1981). The status of the Noisy Scrub-bird Atrichornis clamosus. Biological Conservation. 19:239-254.

Stokes, T., W. Sheils & K. Dunn (1984). Birds of the Cocos - Keeling Islands, Indian Ocean. Emu. 84:23-28.

Vestjens, W.J.M. (1963). Remains of the extinct Banded Rail at Macquarie Island. Emu. 62:249-250.

Watkins, D. (1985). Report of the RAOU Ground Parrot Survey in Western Australia. RAOU Report. 15. Melbourne, Vic: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Gallirallus philippensis macquariensis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Mon, 1 Sep 2014 21:19:51 +1000.