Gallirallus pacificus (Gmelin)

Tahitian Red-billed Rail (Gallirallus pacificus)

The Red-billed- or Tahitian Red-billed Rail was described in 1789; it was endemic to the island of Tahiti, Society Islands and is known only on the basis of a painting made by Georg Forster around 1777 and an associated description.

The species reached a size of only about 23 cm and was flightless.

The Tahitian name of the bird was tevea which can be translated as ‘the rail’.


Another Tahitian name was , this is known from a list of so-called ata, supposed embodiments of Tahitian atua (Tahitian Gods); among whihc is also the Tahitian Red-billed Rail.:

Black-and-white speckled rail (oā), ata of Oāhīvari (Blackness-fishing-in-mud), god of quagmire.” [1][2] 


The Tahitian Red-billed Rail apparently disappeared shortly after the first Europeans set foot on the Society Islands; however, there appear to be sightings that are said to have taken place until 1844.


Depiction from: ‘Lionel Walter Rothschild: Extinct birds: an attempt to unite in one volume a short account of those birds which have become extinct in historical times: that is, within the last six or seven hundred years: to which are added a few which still exist, but are on the verge of extinction. London: Hutchinson & Co., Paternoster Row, E. C. 1907’

(public domain)



[1] Teuira Henry: Ancient Tahiti. Bishop Museum Bulletins 48: 1-651. 1928
[2] Douglas L. Oliver: Ancient Tahitian Society. The University Press of Hawai’i, Honolulu 1974


edited: 04.01.2024