Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots (Rallidae)

Least Concern

Baillon's Crake (Zapornia pusilla)


French: Marouette de Baillon German: Zwergsumpfhuhn Spanish: Polluela chica

Rallus pusillus


, 1776,

Dauria, south-eastern Russia


Previously included in expanded genus Porzana. Thought to be closely related to recently extinct †Z. palmeri of Laysan I (Hawaii). Race mayri possibly synonymous with palustris. Race mira (known only from holotype, from SE Borneo) sometimes synonymized with nominate, but is distinctive, clearly smaller than others, reddish-tinged above, and with whitish throat and breast and contrastingly dark-barred belly; little known, but found in a region in which almost no recent fieldwork carried out. Proposed race obscura (sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar) synonymized with intermedia. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • Z. p. intermedia (Hermann, 1804) – Western Baillon's Crake – Europe E to Asia Minor, and S locally in Morocco, Egypt, Senegambia#R and Ethiopia, then from E DRCongo to C Kenya and S to Angola, Namibia and South Africa, and also Madagascar; European birds winter in Africa.
  • Z. p. pusilla (Pallas, 1776) – Eastern Baillon's Crake – E Europe (R Dnister) E through C & E Asia to Amurland, N China and Japan, S to Iran and N India and irregularly in Sumatra and N Sulawesi; winters in India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and from S China to Indonesia and Philippines.
  • Z. p. mira (Riley, 1938) – Bornean Baillon's Crake – Borneo.
  • Z. p. mayri (Junge, 1952) – W New Guinea (Wissel Lakes).
  • Z. p. palustris (Gould, 1843) – Australasian Baillon's Crake – E New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania.
  • Z. p. affinis (G. R. Gray, 1845) – New Zealand and Chatham Is. An old breeding record from New Caledonia (Grande Terre) probably this race#R.
  • Descriptive notes

    17–19 cm; male 23–45 (35·5) g, female 17–55 (34) g, unsexed 20–52 (33) g; wingspan of intermedia 33–37 cm, of palustris... read more


    Advertising call of male a hard, dry rattle (in African birds identical to rattle call of ... read more


    Freshwater to saline, permanent to ephemeral palustrine wetlands with dense vegetation and often... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly adult and larval aquatic insects, including Coleoptera, Hemiptera, Odonata, Plecoptera, Phryganeidae (caddisflies) and Culicidae;... read more


    Europe, May–Jul; Morocco, May, breeding condition Apr; Egypt (formerly), Apr; Ethiopia, Jul; Tanzania, breeding condition Apr; Malawi... read more


    Extent of migrations unclear (map highly conjectural). In Europe, most intermedia move S... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Some races rare or poorly known. In W Palearctic, intermedia now regarded as rare and very local, having declined... read more

    Recommended citation

    Taylor, B., Kirwan, G.M. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Baillon's Crake (Zapornia pusilla). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 3 April 2020).