Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots (Rallidae)

Least Concern

Nkulengu Rail (Himantornis haematopus)


French: Râle à pieds rouges German: Rotfußralle Spanish: Rascón nkulenga

Himantornis haematopus


, 1855,

Dabocrom, Ghana


Placed in its own subfamily on basis of primitive skeletal characters, which suggest link with trumpeters of family Psophiidae. Sometimes divided into three races, with recognition of petiti (Gabon to C DRCongo) and whitesidei (SC & E DRCongo), but in view of great individual variation in plumage within ranges of all three proposed races, and overlap of characters between them, species probably best treated as monotypic until more extensive studies made. Monotypic.


Sierra Leone E to W Uganda and S to coastal and C DRCongo and NW Angola (Cabinda).

Descriptive notes

43 cm; 1 female 390 g. Variably scaly or mottled plumage pattern more reminiscent of francolin than rail, but overall shape, leg length and behaviour are obviously rallid.... read more


Call a rhythmical, antiphonal duet; described as series of phrases of 6 notes “ko-káw-zi-k... read more


Lowland rain forest, usually dense primary or old secondary growth, where inhabits rank vegetation... read more

Food and feeding

Snails, millipedes, insects including ants and beetles, small amphibians and hard seeds. Probably takes larger prey, and forages on drier... read more


Almost unknown. Breeding recorded Cameroon, Sept; Gabon, fresh nest Feb; Zaire, Feb, probably also Mar and Sept. Probably monogamous and... read more


Apparently sedentary.

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Frequent to common throughout most of its range; in Gabon, spacing of singing birds suggested density of 3 pairs per 200 ha. No... read more

Recommended citation

Taylor, B. (2019). Nkulengu Rail (Himantornis haematopus). 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 11 December 2019).