[order] Gruiformes | [family] Rallidae | [latin] Porzana pusilla | [UK] Baillons Crake | [FR] Marouette de Baillon | [DE] Zwergsumpfhuhn | [ES] Polluela Chica | [IT] Schiribilla grigiata | [NL] Kleinst Waterhoen

Kleinst Waterhoen determination

copyright: G. Dabb

Sexes similar but female often has rufous brown streak, from over ear to complete eyestripe. Pale patch on chin larger in female and in both sexes in non-breeding season. Separable on plumage, size and structure from sympatric congeners. Legs and feet often said to be flesh-colored, but usually greenish grey, olive or yellowish. Races separated on size and color, intermedia largest with underpart barring extending further up belly, palustris small and pale, mira has white throat and breast.

Freshwater to saline, permanent to ephemera palustrine wetlands with dens vegetation and often floating pans, including marshes, swamps and margins of open water.

Porzana pusilla is a widespread but patchily distributed summer visitor to much of southern and eastern Europe, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is very small (as few as 760 pairs), but was stable between 1970-1990. Although the species declined in a number of countries during 1990-2000, no trend data were available for its Russian stronghold. Nevertheless, its population size renders it susceptible to the risks affecting small populations, and consequently the species is provisionally evaluated as Rare.
This small rail has a very fragmented distribution in Europe, Asia reaching 55°N, Australia, and northern, eastern and Southern Africa. Its European populations are wintering in the Mediterranean region and in sub-Saharan Africa. The breeding population of the European Union is estimated at 3000-5000 pairs. Being very difficult to observe, its trends are not well known, but a global decline seems to be most probable due to wetland reclamation

Mostly aquatic insects, also molluscs, crustaceans, small fish, green plant and seeds. Forages on mud, probing and taking prey from surface, and in shallow water, occasionally to belly depth, immersing bill to seize prey.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 kmē. It has a large global population, including an estimated 1,500-6,500 individuals in Europe (BirdLife International in prep.). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Breeding starts May-July in Europe, April-June in North Africa. May-Jul in Europe, Apr-Jun in N Africa, May-Aug in Japan and Sep-Jan in Australia. Nests during or just after wet season. Monogamous and territorial. Pair-bond maintained only while breeding. Nest is a shallow cup or platform of material available nearby, often with vegetation pulled over to form canopy. The nest is built on the ground in thick vegetation close to water, in soft grass or or tussock in water. 4-11 eggs are laid, incubation lasts 16-20 days and tended to by both sexes. Chick has bottle-green gloss, iris bluish brown to black, bill bone white to straw yellow, legs and feet grey-brown to black. First breeding after 1 year.

Migratory, but big gaps in knowledge because of skulking nature; in practice, the least known of west Palearctic Rallidae. Marked southward withdrawal in autumn, though exceptional December-January records exist for Europe north to Britain where only a vagrant. Migrants occur along full length of Mediterranean basin, but winter distribution still conjectural. Trans-Saharan migration indicated by March-April oasis records from Libya and Algeria. Thus main winter quarters of European birds probably in sub-Saharan Africa, where indistinguishable (except in the hand) from resident breeding population.