Weka (bird).jpg
Weka, Gallirallus australis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae
Genus: Gallirallus
Lafresnaye, 1841

2 living, and see text

  • Tricholimnas
  • Hypotaenidia

Gallirallus is a genus of rails that live in the Australasian-Pacific region. The genus is characterised by an ability to colonise relatively small and isolated islands and thereafter to evolve flightless forms, many of which became extinct following Polynesian settlement.


Many of the rails, including the well-known weka of New Zealand, are flightless or nearly so. Many of the resultant flightless island endemics became extinct after the arrival of humans, which hunted these birds for food, introduced novel predators like rats, dogs or pigs, and upset the local ecosystems. A common Polynesian name of these rails, mainly relatives of G. philippensis, is veka/weka (in English, this name is generally limited to Gallirallus australis).

On the other hand, Gallirallus species are (with the exception of the weka) notoriously retiring and shy birds with often drab coloration.

Living species

In the online list maintained by Frank Gill, Pamela Rasmussen and David Donsker on behalf of the International Ornithological Committee (IOC), the genus contains two species:[1]

These species are placed by BirdLife International and IUCN in the separate genus Hypotaenidia but are still considered part of Gallirallus by The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World/eBird:

Species extinct before A.D. 1500

Illustration of an unidentified extinct species (possibly G. vekamatolu) from Vava'u, 1739
  • Nuku Hiva rail, Gallirallus epulare[2]
  • New Ireland rail, Gallirallus ernstmayri
  • Ua Huka rail, Gallirallus gracilitibia[2]
  • Niue rail, Gallirallus huiatua [3][4]
  • Tinian rail, Gallirallus pendiculentus
  • Aguiguan rail, Gallirallus pisonii
  • Mangaia rail, Gallirallus ripleyi[5]
  • Tahuata rail, Gallirallus roletti[2]
  • Tubuai rail, Gallirallus steadmani[6]
  • Huahine rail, Gallirallus storrsolsoni
  • Rota rail, Gallirallus temptatus
  • ‘Eua rail, Gallirallus vekamatolu - possibly survived to the early 19th century[7][8]
  • Hiva Oa rail, ?Gallirallus sp.
  • Vava'u Rail, Gallirallus [Hypotaenidia] vavauensis Worthy & Burley 2020.[9]



  1. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (2020). "Flufftails, finfoots, rails, trumpeters, cranes, limpkin". IOC World Bird List Version 10.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Kirchman, Jeremy J.; Steadman, David. (2007). "New species of extinct rails (Aves: Rallidae) from archaeological sites in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia". Pacific Science. 61 (1): 145–163. doi:10.1353/psc.2007.0008. hdl:10125/22605. Archived from the original on 2014-06-11. (subscription required)
  3. ^ "Gallirallus huiatua; holotype". Collections Online. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  4. ^ Steadman, David W.; Worthy, Trevor H.; Anderson, Atholl J.; Walter, Richard. (2000-06-01). "New species and records of birds from prehistoric sites on Niue, southwest Pacific". Wilson Bulletin. 112 (2): 165–186. doi:10.1676/0043-5643(2000)112[0165:NSAROB]2.0.CO;2. Archived from the original on 2007-05-24. (subscription required)
  5. ^ Steadman, D. W. (1986). "Two new species of rails (Aves: Rallidae) from Mangaia, Southern Cook Islands". Pacific Science. 40 (1): 27–43.
  6. ^ Worthy, Trevor H.; Bollt, Robert. (2011-01-01). "Prehistoric birds and bats from the Atiahara site, Tubuai, Austral Islands, East Polynesia". Pacific Science. 65 (1): 69–86. doi:10.2984/65.1.069. hdl:10125/23211. Archived from the original on 2014-09-21. (subscription required)
  7. ^ A similar bird was found to live on nearby Vava‘u in 1793. Given that G. vekamatolu was flightless, this may just as well represent a related species.
  8. ^ Kirchman, J.J.; Steadman, D. W. (2005). "Rails (Aves: Rallidae: Gallirallus) from prehistoric sites in the Kingdom of Tonga, including description of a new species". Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 118: 465–477. doi:10.2988/0006-324x(2005)118[465:rargfp];2.
  9. ^ Worthy, Trevor H.; Burley, David V. (2020). "Prehistoric avifaunas from the Kingdom of Tonga". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 189 (3): 998–1045. doi:10.1093/zoolinnean/zlz110.