Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots (Rallidae)

Least Concern

Spotless Crake (Zapornia tabuensis)


French: Marouette fuligineuse German: Südsee-Sumpfhuhn Spanish: Polluela de Tongatapu

Rallus tabuensis

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

Tongatapu Group, Tonga


Previously placed in genus Porzana. Closely related to Z. atra and †Z. monasa. Geographical variation slight, and validity of subspecies requires confirmation. Possible race plumbea (of S Australia and New Zealand) included in nominate tabuensis; various other proposed races (filipina, immaculata, oliveri, caledonica, vitiensis, tenebrosa) likewise synonymized with nominate. Three subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • Z. t. tabuensis (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – N Philippines (Luzon and Mindoro#R#R) through Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and Chatham Is to New Caledonia and SW Pacific islands and E through Micronesia and Polynesia.
  • Z. t. edwardi (Gyldenstolpe, 1955) – Central Highlands of W, C & E New Guinea.
  • Z. t. richardsoni (Rand, 1940) – summit plateau of Maoke Mts (WC New Guinea).
  • Descriptive notes

    15–18 cm; male 34–56 (45·5) g, female 21–58 (40)g; wingspan 26–29 cm. Sexes alike. Easily distinguished from all sympatric small crakes:... read more


    Calls distinctive. Commonest calls, given during breeding season: loud trilling purr, resembling... read more


    Usually dense vegetation in, or at margins of, freshwater or saline wetlands, either permanent or... read more

    Food and feeding

    Molluscs, crustaceans (ostracods and amphipods), Collembola, adult and larval insects (Ephemeroptera, Coleoptera, Diptera and Orthoptera),... read more


    Australia, Sept–Jan; New Zealand, Aug–Jan; New Caledonia, Oct; Vanuatu, probably Sept–Feb; Society Is, Jul. Monogamous;... read more


    Generally regarded as resident over much of range. In Australia relatively few records in S during... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). In Australia suitable habitat lost through drainage of wetlands, but species probably still plentiful in many areas, though... read more

    Recommended citation

    Taylor, B. (2020). Spotless Crake (Zapornia tabuensis). 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 7 April 2020).