Chatham rail

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Chatham rail
Cabalus modestus.jpg
Illustration by Keulemans

Extinct  (c.1900) (IUCN 3.1)[1]
Scientific classification

Hutton 1874
C. modestus
Binomial name
Cabalus modestus
(Hutton, 1872)

Gallirallus modestus
(Hutton, 1872)
Rallus modestus
(Hutton, 1872)

The Chatham rail (Cabalus modestus) is an extinct flightless species of bird in the family Rallidae. It was endemic to New Zealand. Genetic similarity with Gallirallus dieffenbachii is why many view this species as part of the genus Gallirallus.[2]

Image of Cabalus modestus mount from the collection of Auckland Museum
Cabalus modestus mount from the collection of Auckland Museum
Illustration from 1907

Cabalus modestus was endemic to Chatham, Mangere and Pitt Islands, New Zealand.[3] It was first discovered on Mangere in 1871, and 26 specimens collected there are known from museum collections. It became extinct on the island between 1896 and 1900. The species is also known from 19th century bones from Chatham and Pitt Islands. It is likely to have occurred in scrubland and tussock grass.


Its extinction was presumably caused by predation by rats and cats (which were introduced in the 1890s), habitat destruction to provide sheep pasture (which destroyed all of the island's bush and tussock grass by 1900), and from grazing by goats and rabbits. On Chatham and Pitt Islands Olson[4] has suggested that its extinction resulted from competition with the larger Dieffenbach's rail Gallirallus dieffenbachii (also extinct), but the two species have been shown to have been sympatric on Mangere.[5] Gallirallus dieffenbachiii and G. modestus had a common volant ancestor but both were flightless; their sympatry suggests parallel evolution after separate colonisation of the Chatham Islands.[2]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Cabalus modestus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b Trewick, S.A. (1997). "Sympatric flightless rails Gallirallus dieffenbachiii and G. modestus on the Chatham Islands, New Zealand; morphometrics and alternative evolutionary scenarios". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 27 (4): 451–464.
  3. ^ Marchant and Higgins (1993)
  4. ^ Olson (1975c)
  5. ^ Tennyson and Millener (1994)

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