Lord Howe Island Woodhen

John Game

Australian Museum

Australian Museum
Sydney, Australia

Lord Howe Island Woodhen, Hypotaenidia sylvestris

Where in Australia do they live?
Lord Howe Island Woodhens can only be found on Lord Howe Island. About 220 live there.

What is their habitat?
Lord Howe Island Woodhens like to live in low-lying palm forests to mountain-top mist forests.

What’s special about them?
The Lord Howe Island Woodhen has an amazing story of survival to tell. In 1980 it was estimated that only 15 birds were still alive. Early explorers easily caught them and ate these flightless birds as they were apparently quite tasty. But this was nothing compared to the slaughter that followed the introduction of pigs and cats. After successful breeding and other conservation programs, the birds now number roughly 220, about the island’s limit. They have been brought back from the brink of extinction.

What do they eat?
Their diet consists of a variety of insects, insect larvae, worms, snails and other invertebrates found on the forest floor. They eat some fruits and even enjoy the eggs of other birds.

How do they reproduce?
Adult Woodhens pair for life and are very territorial. The birds breed between spring and early summer and can produce up to four eggs in one clutch. They nest on the ground under thick vegetation or in petrel burrows.

What else do I need to know?
The Lord Howe Island Woodhen is an olive brown, flightless bird with a downward curved beak and red eyes. Males are a little larger than females, but both are quite large, growing up to 42 cm.

Where do they fit in the tree of life?
Species: sylvestris
Genus: Hypotaenidia
Family: Rallidae
Order: Gruiformes
Class: Aves
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Phylum: Chordata
Kingdom: Animalia

What is their conservation status?
Lord Howe Island Woodhens have an IUCN status of Endangered
In NSW, Lord Howe Island Woodhens are Endangered


  • Title: Lord Howe Island Woodhen
  • Creator: John Game
  • Rights: John Game - Flickr

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