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Buff-banded Rail

Gallirallus philippensis ssp. mellori


The Buff-banded Rail is a distinctively coloured, medium-sized rail of the family Rallidae, and I think quite a beautiful bird. This species comprises several subspecies (approx. 25) found throughout much of Australasia and the south-west Pacific region. This rail walks slowly, although when I see them they're usually darting for cover with their tails raised and flicking constantly. It's an omnivorous scavenger which feeds on a range of terrestrial invertebrates and small vertebrates, seeds, fallen fruit and other vegetable matter, as well as carrion and refuse. Its nest is usually situated in dense grassy or reedy vegetation close to water, with a clutch size of 3-4. I've read they are secretive but not shy, but that has never been my experience; they always seem to dart for cover when I see them. Because of the dense vegetation in and along the creek, plus the fact that this bird 'was' shy and aware of my presence, I was unable to get close, hence the mediocre photos.


Spotted along Caggage Tree Creek which flows into Lake Manchester, a freshwater reservoir west of Brisbane. It is located in Brisbane Forest Park, an area of dense native bushland and subtropical rainforest. The creek area is pristine, and when I visited it was quiet and cool, and the water flowing gently and very clean. Native trees and shrubs like She-oak, Moreton Bay Chestnut and Bottlebrush line the banks, plus Sydney Blue Gums tower overhead, whilst native Green Matrush is thickly abundant in the creek itself, providing the perfect habitat for this species. In other locations, it can be seen in dense reeds and vegetation bordering many types of wetlands or crops, but also makes widespread use of artificial wetlands like sewage ponds and drainage channels.


This is the first time I have seen a rail in a water environment, and it was feeding. The water was roughly 3-4 inches deep, and the bird was moving quietly through the reeds, and pausing briefly before submerging its head completely beneath the water to feed. I've never seen this behaviour before, so I wonder, had the water been deeper, would it actually dive or swim to pursue its prey, or do they prefer to wade only?

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Neil Ross
Spotted by
Neil Ross

City of Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Lat: -27.47, Long: 152.79

Spotted on Jul 22, 2018
Submitted on Aug 12, 2018

Related Spottings

Weka Slaty-Breasted Rail Buff-banded Rail Buff-banded Rail

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Brisbane Golden Wattle (aka Fringed Wattle) Ghost Gum sp. (with tessellated bark) Yellow-footed Antechinus Pink Bloodwood