Banded rail
Image: Andris Apse ©

Introduction

The at risk, naturally uncommon banded rail/moho pererū is a native subspecies which inhabits wetlands throughout New Zealand.

Highlights

New Zealand status: Native
Conservation status: At Risk (Declining) 
Found in: Mainly mangroves and salt marshes of the upper North Island
Threats: Habitat loss, predation, human disturbance

Species information: Banded rail on NZ Birds Online

Banded rail conservation

The banded rail, or moho pererū as it is known to Maori, are similar to a weka, but not as large. They are usually quite shy but may become very tame and bold in some circumstances, as they have become on Great Barrier Island.

When Europeans arrived in New Zealand, banded rails were abundant, but regional and local populations have undergone declines. Banded rails have declined significantly since humans began draining wetlands. They are a potential indicator of wetland health because they are dependent on the presence of high quality and ecologically diverse habitats and rich food supplies

The population is widely scattered throughout New Zealand. They are sparsely distributed on the three main islands and many small offshore islands. They are confined to freshwater wetlands, mangroves, saltmarshes and shrublands in the northern half of the North Island (particularly in Northland and the Coromandel), and to saltmarshes in Nelson and Marlborough in the South Island.

The main threats to banded rail/moho pererū are:

Habitat clearance and drainage: this has had a significant impact on banded rails. Over 90% of lowland wetlands have been drained and cleared for agriculture since Europeans settled New Zealand. Degradation of the remaining wetlands continues with grazing, water pollution and taking of water for other uses being major threats.

Coastal development: mangrove removal and construction of marinas result in habitat modification and the loss of food supplies.

Predation by introduced mammals: cats, dogs, mustelids and rats predate banded rail/moho pererū. Cats appear to be a significant threat to, based on historic and current data.

Other factors which impact on the banded rail/moho pererū: Road-kills appear to be significant causes of deaths, and nesting banded rails are also sensitive to disturbance by humans.

Management tools

Downy banded rail chick being artificially fed.
Downy banded rail chick being artificially fed

Wetlands support a wide range of threatened bird species in New Zealand. However, management techniques for restoring their populations are poorly developed.
 
DOC is focusing on developing methods for surveying banded rails systematically. These methods will enable people to establish baseline data and distribution maps; identify important wetland habitat types for conservation and measure the response to management such as pest control; and habitat maintenance and restoration.

DOC has been developing ‘call counts’ for banded rails. These take place with either an observer listening for set times at dawn or dusk using call lures, or with new automatic recorders (electronic recorders developed by the DOC Electronics Lab) recording calls remotely.

In addition DOC is actively developing methods for restoring wetlands through its Arawai Kākāriki wetland restoration programme. Restoration involves developing a wide range of management tools including methods for controlling introduced predators, methods for managing water levels and restoring wetland vegetation.

You can help

Report sightings or calls of banded rails to the nearest DOC office.

Emergency hotline

Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) immediately if you see anyone catching, harming or killing native wildlife. 

Help protect our native birds

When visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes
  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep them under control.
  • Check your gear for mice and rats when visiting pest-free islands.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. 
  • Leave nesting birds alone.
  • Follow the water care code.
  • Avoid leaving old fishing lines on beaches or in the sea.
Other ways to help
  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness.
  • Volunteer with DOC or other groups to control predators and restore bird habitats.
  • Set traps for stoats or rats on your property. Get more information from your local DOC office.
  • Put a bell on your cat's collar, feed it well, and keep it indoors at dusk/dawn and at night.
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