new bird species, which is believed to be found nowhere
else in the world, has been discovered on the remote
island of Calayan, 70 km north of Luzon.
bird will be named the Calayan Rail (Gallirallus
calayanensis), after the island on which it was found.
Calayan is the largest island in the Babuyan island
group that lies between Batanes and Luzon.
discovery was made by a team of nine volunteer wildlife
researchers from the Philippines and the United Kingdom,
who conducted a survey of birds, mammals, reptiles and
amphibians on the islands from April to June. The team
was led by conservationists Carl Oliveros and Genevieve
Española, a Filipino wildlife biologist, found
a group of these dark brown birds with their distinctive
orange-red bills and legs foraging in the undergrowth
near a stream while she was walking through rainforest
on May 11 this year.
click to view area map of Calayan Island
Her notes and photographs, and recordings of the birds
loud, harsh, rasping calls, later helped determine that the
species was not only new to her, but also new to science.
Locals, however, know the bird by the name piding.
Some residents said the birds were sometimes even caught for
expected many new distribution records for the Babuyan Islands,
but a new bird species was completely unexpected, said
said, We plan to undertake further research to determine
the habitat requirements, abundance and distribution of the
rail, while working closely with local residents to minimize
threats, and to encourage long-term initiatives to protect
apparently not under immediate threat, the limited distribution
of the new species makes it vulnerable to habitat loss and
predators introduced to the island such as cats and rats,
Carlo Custodio, chief ecosystems management specialist of
the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, said the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources has taken the initial
steps in the process of declaring the islands of the Babuyan
group a protected area. The discovery of this rail inspires
us to continue the work that has been started.
Juan Carlos Gonzalez, a professor in zoology and wildlife
biology at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños,
and member of the survey team, said the new species may be
classified as 'vulnerable' under the World Conservation Union
Red List criteria for species of conservation concern.
means the Calayan Rail faces a high risk of extinction
in the wild.
are ground-feeding and ground-nesting birds with long legs
and straight pointed bills. Rails and other similar species
have among the highest record of recently extinct or endangered
of the 20 living species of flightless rail are considered
threatened, and the majority of rail species that have become
extinct since 1600 were flightless said a 1998 handbook on
their stay on the island, the nine-member expedition team
saw adult and juvenile birds on several occasions. Within
a two-kilometer range of their rainforest camp, they recorded
an estimated 100-200 pairs.
Calayan Rail also appears to be nearly or completely flightless.
Expedition members said the birds were seen skulking in undergrowth
or out on open trails, sometimes alone, sometimes in family
its orange-red bill and legs look similar to the Okinawa rail
from the Ryukyu Islands in Japan, the former does not have
a white stripe below the eye and black and white barring in
its underparts, said Gonzalez, who is one of the authors of
the scientific paper describing the new species.
from Española and Gonzalez, other expedition members
included Oriental bird specialist Desmond Allen (British),
Harvey John Garcia, Marisol Pedregosa, Mark Anthony Reyes
and Amado Bajarias Jr. Most of the team are members of the
Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.
nine-week survey was funded through the Rufford Small Grant
Committee and the Oriental Bird Club. Additional equipment
was provided by IdeaWild USA.
team surveyed the terrestrial fauna in Camiguin, Babuyan Claro,
Calayan and Dalupiri islands, which form part of the Babuyan
Calayan island is still largely covered by rainforest and
has 8,500 residents. The island was last visited by ornithologists
exactly one hundred years ago.
the midst of the disappearing rainforests of the Philippines
and the drastic loss of biodiversity, the discovery of the
Calayan Rail in one of the most fragile habitats in the archipelago
is a sign of hope that its not too late to conserve
these remote rainforests. But we need to conserve and learn
about it before its too late," added Gonzalez.For
further information or interviews please contact:
Carl Oliveros (co-leader of expedition):
+63 (2)8729085 (home);
Española (expedition team member):
+63 (2)4273389 (home);
+63 (918)7267350 (mobile);
Genevieve Broad (co-leader of expedition):
+44 (0)1502 724046 (home);
+44 (0)788 794 3018
Allen (consultant on oriental birds, & expedition member):
(click on the thumbnails to view the whole image)
photo: Carmela Espanola
The Calayan Rail inhabits primary and secondary forest
in the island of Calayan, Babuyan Islands, Cagayan
photo: Genevieve Broad
The Calayan Rail shown with its distinctive red bill.