- New Britain Rail
 - New Britain Rail

New Britain Rail Gallirallus insignis Scientific name definitions

Barry Taylor
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated January 1, 1996

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33 cm. Probably almost flightless, although some reports that it may fly well; tail very short and decomposed; some white barring on inner webs of primaries. Sexes alike. H. torquata and H. okinawae differ in having distinctive head pattern and barred undertail-coverts; H. torquata is volant and has longer tail and brown legs; H. okinawae has reddish bill and legs. Immature and juvenile not described.

Systematics History

Sometimes placed in genus Rallus or Gallirallus; alternatively, in monospecific Habropteryx, although affinities are clearly with H. torquata. Also closely related to H. okinawae. Monotypic.




New Britain.


Heavy damp forests and mountain valleys; also swampy cane grass; wanders into gardens when foraging. Occurs from sea-level to at least 1130 m.


None recorded.

Diet and Foraging

Snails, insects (including beetles) and vegetable matter.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Loud, short calls, suggestive of dog or pig, uttered by day and night. Duetting birds call alternately to each other for several minutes. Groups reported to follow a leader, which regularly utters loud screams, often from elevated calling site, when followers utter low, nasal gulping notes.


Social organization not known; commonly occurs in parties. Nests on the ground. No further information available.

Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. No recent assessment of status but regarded as locally common in 1980s. Snared and eaten by local people. Extensive research required on ecology, biology and status.

Distribution of the New Britain Rail
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the New Britain Rail

Recommended Citation

Taylor, B. (2020). New Britain Rail (Gallirallus insignis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.nebrai1.01