So shy and so elusive, this bird, like the marsh crake, is so seldom seen that its existence is hardly acknowledged. Certainly it is only recently that I have seen these birds and having learned that the place to look for them is in and around raupo, typha muelleri, dominated swamps or wetlands. Indeed, any quite small patch of raupo more than likely will harbour these birds. They are seldom found in flax dominated wetlands.

Spotless crake are more often heard than seen and have a wide variety of calls which are usually heard at dawn and dusk. There are sharp ‘pit–pit’ calls, a single or repeated ‘book’ and a distinctive rolling ‘purr’ call like an alarm clock going off and gradually running down.

plumbea is the subspecies of Australia and New Zealand and the nominate tabuensis the subspecies of the Philippines, Moluccas, New Guinea, Micronesia, Melanesnia and south western Polynesia.

Order:Gruiformes (Ralliformes)
Sub Species:plumbea

Other common names:  — 

Putoto, sooty rail

Description:  — 

Native bird

20 cm., 45 g., head and underparts leaden grey with a bluish sheen, upperparts dark brown, undertail black barred with white, bill black, eye and eye–ring red, legs reddish in colour.

Where to find:  — 

Common in some offshore islands. May also be found in the raupo swamps of the northern part of the North Island and the Manawatu/Horowhenua dune lakes. Sparse in the South Island.

Credit for the photograph: — 

Illustration description: — 


Buller, Walter Lawry, Birds of New Zealand, 1873.

Gould, John, Birds of Australia, 1840–48.

Reference(s): — 


Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.

Oliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955.

Page date & version: — 


Wednesday, 27 October, 2010; ver2009v1


©  2005    Narena Olliver,    new zealand birds limited,     Greytown, New Zealand.