National recovery plan for the Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris)

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 2002

6. Habitat

The Lord Howe Woodhen occurs predominantly in three vegetation types (sensu Pickard 1983):

  • Gnarled Mossy-Forest;
  • Megaphyllous Broad Sclerophyll Forest, particularly the Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana) association, where it is growing on soils derived from igneous geology; and
  • gardens around houses.

The first occurs on the summit plateau of Mount Gower and the summit ridge of Mount Lidgbird. The second occurs patchily through the settlement area, mid-slope on the northern face of Mount Lidgbird ('Grey Face'), and low on the eastern slopes of Mount Gower and the western flanks of both mountains. The third occurs in the settlement area (Harden and Robertshaw 1988, 1989).

The Woodhen is rarely found in the rainforest sub-formation of Closed Forest, the most widespread forest type on the island (Marchant and Higgins 1993).

In addition to these broad habitat types, the Woodhen has also been seen in areas of:

  • forest bordering pasture and gardens (Marchant and Higgins 1993);
  • pasture and reedy swamp (Fullagar 1985); and
  • rubbish dump where they obtained supplementary food (Fullagar 1985) prior to upgrading of the disposal facility.

Only 10% of the island has been cleared and a further 10% disturbed by human activities. This leaves 80% of the indigenous vegetation on the island comparatively intact although subject to weed invasion, particularly at its margins (see Section 9). It is of interest that a disproportionate amount of the favoured lowland habitat occurs as remnants within the settlement area on the island. This has implications for management discussed in Sections 10 to 12.