Temporal range: Miocene - Recent, 7–0Ma
|A wild Layson Crake|
The Laysan rail, or Laysan crake (Porzana palmeri) is an extinct rail species. They existed on the island of Laysan in Hawaii until their extinction in June 1944.
Distribution and habitat
Behavior and ecology
Laysan is considered one of the most important seabird colonies in the United States. It has thousands of black-footed albatross, Laysan albatross as well as shearwaters and terns. The island also held 5 unique (sub)species of land- and waterbirds, including the Laysan rail. The extinction of this species is particularly unfortunate as it could have easily been avoided.
The rail was initially threatened when domestic rabbits were introduced to Laysan. With no predators to control their numbers the rabbits soon ate the entire vegetation cover on the island. This turned the island into a barren dust bowl, sending the Laysan millerbird and the Laysan honeycreeper (both subspecies endemic to the island) to extinction; the Laysan finch and Laysan duck both managed to survive. In the 1900s, when destruction of the vegetation by the rabbits had only just started, the rail's population was around 2000 mature birds and at carrying capacity; it remained so until at least the early 1910s, but declined thereafter. In 1923, only two birds could be found on Laysan, and of eight that were on that occasion brought from Midway, at least two died almost immediately from lack of food and shelter. The species is believed to have become extinct on Laysan during 1923, probably mainly because no habitat for nesting was left in sufficient quantity to maintain the population. The last rail was seen on Eastern Island in Midway in June 1944.