Bird O'clock

10 Interesting Facts About the Elusive Andaman Crake

Andaman Crake, also known as Rallina canningi, is a small bird species belonging to the Rallidae family and is endemic to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India. This bird is a secretive and skulking ground-dweller that inhabits dense forests, mangrove swamps, and marshy areas.

In this article, we will discuss the identification, plumages, molts, and other interesting facts about Andaman Crake.

Identification

Andaman Crake is a small bird that measures about 20 cm in length and weighs around 80-90 grams. It has a brownish-grey plumage on the upperparts, with a blackish-brown head and a distinctive blue-grey facial skin.

Its underparts are buffy-white with dark flank stripes, and its tail is short and rounded. The bill is greyish-green, short, and straight, and the eyes are dark brown.

Moreover, this bird has long, strong legs, which are bright greenish-yellow in color. Field

Identification

Andaman Crake is a very secretive bird and is usually heard more than seen.

Its loud, sharp, and shrill call is frequently heard at night and early morning. The bird can be identified by its distinctive call, which sounds like ‘sik-sik-sik-sik-sik.’ It also occasionally emits a series of bubbling calls and peeps.

Similar Species

Andaman Crake is similar in appearance to the Slaty-legged Crake, but it can be distinguished by its short, rounded tail, blue-grey facial skin and distinctive call. The juvenile Andaman Crake is similar in appearance to the adult, but it has a duller facial skin and lacks the flank stripes.

Plumages

Andaman Crake has two main plumages: the juvenile and the adult. The juveniles have a duller plumage, with a less distinct facial skin, and lack the flank stripes.

The underparts of the juvenile are also more buffy-brown than the white underparts of the adult.

The adult plumage is more distinctive, with a distinctive blue-grey facial skin and blackish-brown head.

The underparts are white with black flank stripes.

Molts

Andaman Crake undergoes two molts in a year- prebasic molt, and prealternate molt. The prebasic molt happens during the non-breeding season (July to September), and the prealternate molt happens during the breeding season (March to June).

During the prebasic molt, the bird replaces its feathers, which helps it maintain its flight and thermoregulation abilities. During the prealternate molt, the bird replaces its feathers, which helps it maintain its appearance during the breeding season.

Interesting Facts

Andaman Crakes are predominantly solitary birds and are rarely seen in pairs. They are most active during the dusk and dawn hours when they emerge from their hiding places in search of food.

They feed on insects, snails, and other small invertebrates. Andaman Crake is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the IUCN Red List because of habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation.

Wetland habitat destruction and hunting also pose a significant threat to this bird.

Conclusion

Andaman Crake is an elusive and skulking bird species that is found only in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This bird is shy and solitary but can be identified by its distinctive call, blue-grey facial skin, and short, rounded tail.

The species is in danger of habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. Therefore, conservation efforts are necessary to protect this unique bird species and its delicate habitat.

Systematics History

The Andaman Crake (Rallina canningi) belongs to the Rallidae family, which comprises of small to medium-sized birds that are generally found in wetlands and marshy areas. The systematic placement of Andaman Crake has been a subject of debate among researchers.

In earlier times, it was considered a subspecies of the Slaty-legged Crake (Rallina eurizonoides) due to their morphological similarities. However, molecular studies suggest that the Andaman Crake is a distinct species, and diverged from the Slaty-legged Crake around 1.8 million years ago.

Geographic Variation

The Andaman Crake is a resident bird species endemic to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, located in the Bay of Bengal. The species shows little geographic variation throughout its range.

Nonetheless, there are slight differences in the size and coloration of the subspecies between different islands.

Subspecies

There are two recognized subspecies of the Andaman Crake. They are:

1.

R. c.

canningi – Found on the Andaman Islands

2. R.

c. hypomelaena – Found on the Nicobar Islands

The subspecies R.

c. canningi is larger and has darker plumage compared to R.

c. hypomelaena, which is smaller in size and paler in coloration.

The skin around the eyes is also more prominent in R. c.

canningi.

Related Species

The Andaman Crake is a member of the genus Rallina, which comprises of around 12 species of crakes found in Asia, Africa, and Australia. The Rallina genus is closely related to the Gallirallus genus, which also belongs to the Rallidae family.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Andaman Crake is a resident bird species that is restricted to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. However, there have been changes in the distribution patterns of this bird throughout the years.

In the past, the Andaman Crake was more widespread throughout the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, occupying a variety of habitats, including mangrove forests, marshes, and paddy fields.

However, the human population has steadily increased in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, leading to significant habitat loss and fragmentation.

The expansion of agriculture, urbanization, and tourism has resulted in the conversion of wetlands and forests into farmland and infrastructure, which has severely degraded the natural habitat for the Andaman Crake.

Moreover, hunting, poaching, and capture for the pet trade have also contributed to the population decline of the Andaman Crake.

The bird is often caught in traps meant for other animals and is also hunted for its meat and feathers.

The population of Andaman Crake has been declining for the past few decades, and the species has been listed as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List since 2008.

Conservation efforts are urgently needed to safeguard the remaining habitat and protect the species from further decline.

Conclusion

The Andaman Crake is a unique bird species that is endemic to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. The bird belongs to the Rallidae family and is closely related to other crake species found across Asia, Africa, and Australia.

Although the Andaman Crake shows little variation throughout its range, there are noticeable differences in its size and coloration between subspecies. Additionally, the population of Andaman Crake has declined over the years due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and hunting.

The species is now classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List, and conservation measures are essential to ensure its survival.

Habitat

Andaman Crake Rallina canningi is a ground-dwelling bird that is mostly found in dense forests, marshy areas and mangrove swamps in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. The species is highly dependent upon wetlands, which provides it with a source of food and shelter.

The Andaman Crake prefers thick undergrowth and reed beds, which provide it with cover from predators, as well as places to forage for food. The species is also known to use rice fields and other agricultural fields with standing water as temporary feeding grounds.

Additionally, this bird is also found in gardens that provide cover and food for the species.

Movements and Migration

The Andaman Crake is a non-migratory resident bird species that inhabits the Andaman and Nicobar Islands throughout the year. Unlike many other bird species, the Andaman Crake does not undertake long-distance migration, and little is known about its movements within its restricted geographical range.

However, it is known that the Andaman Crake is a highly territorial bird that stays within its range throughout the year. The species is highly secretive, and it is difficult to spot or hear it.

The Andaman Crake is mostly active during dusk and dawn, and its distinctive call “sik-sik-sik-sik-sik” is heard mostly at night and early morning when it comes out of its hiding places in search of food. During the day, Andaman Crake mostly hides in dense vegetation and remains inactive to avoid predators and conserve energy.

Although this bird is non-migratory, it does undergo local movements in response to changes in habitat and resource availability. For example, during the breeding season, Andaman Crake moves to marshy areas with dense undergrowth and tall grasses, which provides it with nesting sites and a source of food, while during the non-breeding season, the species moves to dry paddy fields with standing water.

The Andaman Crake is known for its elusive behavior and is often mistaken for other species. Its secretive behavior and dependence on wetlands make it vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation.

The rapid expansion of settlements, agriculture, and other development activities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands pose a significant threat to the species’ survival. The conversion of wetlands into commercial and residential areas has led to the fragmentation of the habitat and loss of critical breeding and feeding sites for the Andaman Crake.

Conservation measures, such as the protection of wetlands and restoration of degraded habitats, are therefore necessary to ensure the survival of this elusive bird species. Additionally, research on the species’ ecology, movement patterns, and behavior can help in devising effective conservation strategies.

Conservation initiatives aimed at promoting eco-tourism can also create awareness among the local community and generate funds for the protection of the species and its habitat.

Conclusion

The Andaman Crake is a non-migratory resident bird species that prefers to inhabit dense forests, marshy areas, and mangrove swamps in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The species is highly dependent upon wetlands, which provides it with cover and food.

Although the Andaman Crake does not undertake long-distance migrations, it undergoes local movements in response to changes in habitat and resource availability. Its secretive nature, coupled with habitat loss and degradation, makes the species vulnerable to population decline.

Conservation measures, such as the protection and restoration of its wetland habitat, are necessary to safeguard this elusive bird species. Further research on its ecology and behavior can also help in developing effective conservation strategies.

Diet and Foraging

Andaman Crake is a ground-dwelling bird that forages for food in dense vegetation. The bird is known to be highly secretive and stays within dense undergrowth, making it difficult to observe the bird’s feeding behavior.

Feeding

Andaman Crake is an omnivorous bird that feeds on a wide range of invertebrates, including insects, snails, and worms, as well as small amphibians, reptiles, and rodents. The bird uses its long, strong legs to search and probe the ground for food.

The species is also known to feed on vegetable matter, including seeds, fruits, berries, and rice grains. During the non-breeding season, Andaman Crakes also feed on agricultural fields with standing water.

Diet

The Andaman Crake’s diet composition varies with the availability of food resources and season. During the breeding season, the species feeds predominantly on invertebrates, such as insects and snails.

The bird forages for terrestrial insects, such as grasshoppers and crickets, by probing the ground with its long bill. Additionally, the Andaman Crake also feeds on aquatic insects and crustaceans, such as crabs and shrimps, that are found in wetlands and marshes.

During the non-breeding season, the Andaman Crake switches to feeding on rice grains and other agricultural crops, such as millets and sorghum. This shift in diet composition is likely due to changes in food availability and the abundance of prey in the wild.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Like many bird species, the Andaman Crake has a high metabolic rate, which helps it sustain its energy requirements for flight, thermoregulation, and general body functions. Additionally, the species has an efficient respiratory system that allows it to inhale more oxygen per breath than mammals.

The Andaman Crake also has a unique thermoregulation mechanism in which it can adjust its body temperature, particularly during extreme weather conditions.

Sounds and Vocal

Behavior

Andaman Crake is a vocal bird species that communicates through a unique set of vocalizations. The species is known for its distinctive, loud, and shrill call, which is heard mostly at night and early mornings.

The bird’s call sounds like “sik-sik-sik-sik-sik,” and it is an excellent indicator of the species’ presence in the habitat.

Vocalization

Andaman Crake vocalization is a crucial component of its social behavior. The species uses its call for communication purposes, including finding mates, announcing territorial boundaries, and maintaining social bonds.

Additionally, the bird can emit a series of bubbling and peeping sounds, which are believed to be used in courtship and territorial disputes. The bird’s call enhances its survival chances by serving dual purposes: attracting potential mates and deterring predators.

The Andaman Crake’s call is significantly louder than other species within its range, which can make it challenging for predators to locate the bird.

Conclusion

Andaman Crake is a unique bird species that feeds on a wide range of invertebrates, small amphibians, reptiles, and rodents. During the non-breeding season, the species switches to feeding on rice grains and other agricultural crops.

The bird has a highly developed respiratory system, an efficient metabolism, and a unique thermoregulation mechanism that allows it to adapt to extreme weather conditions.

The Andaman Crake’s call is a vital part of its social behavior and plays a crucial role in finding mates, announcing territorial boundaries, and maintaining social bonds.

The bird serves a vital role in its ecosystem, and habitat conservation efforts are necessary to protect the species from further population decline. Further research is required to understand the species’ feeding and vocal behavior, which can help in developing effective conservation strategies.

Behavior

Andaman Crake is a ground-nesting bird that exhibits several behaviors necessary for its survival, such as locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, and sexual behavior.

Locomotion

The Andaman Crake is a terrestrial bird that prefers to walk and run over flying to move around. Its long and sturdy legs allow for swift and agile movements through dense vegetation, such as marshes and wetlands.

The bird’s long toes and powerful claws also help it to grip the ground, navigate through dense undergrowth, and find food.

Self-Maintenance

Andaman Crake grooms itself regularly to maintain its feathers and body condition. The bird constantly preens its feathers to remove dirt, debris, and parasites, which helps in maintaining the insulating properties of the feathers and its plumage’s waterproofing functions.

In addition to preening, the bird also dust-bathes frequently, which helps in removing excess oil, dirt, and other particles that could damage its feathers. Agonistic

Behavior

Andaman Crake is highly territorial and protects its feeding and breeding grounds from conspecifics and other competitor species.

The bird exhibits agonistic behavior, such as vocalizing, posturing, and chasing when defending its territory. The bird’s loud and shrill calls are often used to alert other individuals of its presence and to send warning signals to potential predators.

The species may also fight with other individuals who trespass on its territory. Sexual

Behavior

Andaman Crake is a monogamous bird species, wherein males and females stay together throughout the year.

During the breeding season, male Andaman Crakes engage in courtship behavior to attract female mates. The courtship display involves calling, bowing, and puffing of feathers, which are believed to be critical in establishing social bonds and mate selection.

Breeding

Andaman Crake breeding occurs mainly during the monsoon season, from June to September. The bird constructs a nest on the ground of grasses and leaves, which is well-hidden under dense vegetation.

The nest is often located near water sources to facilitate easy access to food for the chicks. The female lays around 4-6 eggs that hatch in about two weeks.

Both the male and female share parental responsibilities, with the male often bringing food to the female and the young hatchlings during the first few weeks. The young chicks feed on a diet of insects and small invertebrates, which the parents provide by foraging in the vicinity of the nest.

The Andaman Crake’s incubation period lasts for about 18-22 days, after which the young chicks fledge and become independent after four weeks.

Demography and Populations

The Andaman Crake is a non-migratory resident bird species that is endemic to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India. The species’ population size and trends are poorly known, but it is believed to decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

The bird’s dependence on wetlands, its dense undergrowth habitat, and its highly territorial behavior make

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