The Rodrigues rail was endemic to the Mascarene island of Rodrigues, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. It was described as having grey plumage, a red beak, red legs, and a naked red patch around the eye. It is believed to have become extinct in the mid-18th century because of predation by cats and destruction of its habitat by tortoise hunters.
About Rodrigues rail in brief
The Rodrigues rail was endemic to the Mascarene island of Rodrigues, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. It was described as having grey plumage, a red beak, red legs, and a naked red patch around the eye. It is believed to have become extinct in the mid-18th century because of predation by introduced cats and destruction of its habitat by tortoise hunters. The bird was first documented from life by two contemporaneous accounts; first by François Leguat, a French Huguenot refugee marooned on Rodrigues in 1691, and then by Julien Tafforet, marooning on the island in 1726. Subfossil remains were later discovered and connected with the old accounts in 1874, and the species was named E. leguati in Leguati’s honour. The word grey is sometimes synonymously used with blue swamphens, but this idea has not been accepted by other commentators. In 1999, the French palaeontologist Cécile Moureré and colleagues pointed out that the bird does not belong to a rail subfossils since it does not have a blue swamphen. The name Erythromachus was incorrectly explained as referring to the EryThraean sea by the American ornithologist Charles Wallace Richmond in 1908. In 1921, the American linguist Geoffroy Atkinson questioned the bird’s existence, in an article that doubted the veracity of LegUat’s memoir. The Rodriguesrail was about 35 cm long and weighed at least 500 g.
It was flightless and fed on tortoise eggs, and described as being attracted to red objects, which humans exploited while hunting it. In 1848, the English zoologist Hugh Edwin Strickland called attention to a bird mentioned in the French traveller FrançoisLeguat’s 1708 memoir about his stay in Rodrigues. He recognised its similarity to those of the red rail, while noting it supposedly had a straighter beak. The name Miserythrus, from \”red\” and \”hatred\”, was used by the English ornithologists Alfred Newton in 18 74, and also refers to the rail’s behaviour towards red, but as a newer name, it is a junior synonym. In 1879, more fossils, including skulls, were described by the zoologists Albert Günther and Edward Newton, who confirmed that the rail was a rail. In 1998, a study by the University of California, Los Angeles, concluded that it was not a rail, but a species of bird of some kind in the rail family. It has since been identified as the Rodrigues Rail, but its relationship with other rails is unclear. The species is now thought to have died out in the early 20th century, and has been replaced by the Rodrigue’s rail, a bird of the same genus as the redrail. The rail is sometimes assigned to the genus Aphanapteryx along with its close relative the redRail.