Hypotaenidia dieffenbachii (Gray, 1843:197)

Dieffenbach’s rail, Meriki or Moeriki (Māori)



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

A complete synonymy taken from (Checklist Committee (OSNZ), 2022:56):

Rallus Dieffenbachii G.R. Gray, 1843: in E. Dieffenbach, Travels in N.Z. 2: 197 – Chatham Islands.; Ocydromus Dieffenbachii (G.R. Gray); G.R. Gray 1845, in Richardson & J.E. Gray (Eds), Zool. Voy. ‘Erebus’ & ‘Terror’, Birds 1(8): 14, pl. 15.; Hypotaenidia dieffenbachi (G.R. Gray); Bonaparte 1856, Compt. Rend. Séa. Acad. Sci., Paris 43: 599. Unjustified emendation.; Hypotaenidia dieffenbachii (G.R. Gray); G.R. Gray 1862, Ibis 4: 238.; Rallus Dieffenbachi G.R. Gray; Anon. 1870, Cat. Colonial Mus.: 75. Unjustified emendation.; Rallus dieffenbachii G.R. Gray; Buller 1872 (Dec.), History of the Birds of N.Z., 1st edition (part 3): 179. In part.; Cabalus dieffenbachii (G.R. Gray); Sharpe 1875, Zool. Voy. ‘Erebus’ & ‘Terror’, Birds – 1 (Appendix): 29, pl. 15. In part.; Nesolimnas dieffenbachii (G.R. Gray); Buller 1905, Suppl. Birds N.Z. 1: 44.; Rallus philippensis dieffenbachii G.R. Gray; Checklist Committee 1990, Checklist Birds N.Z.: 119.; Gallirallus dieffenbachii (G.R. Gray); Holdaway et al. 2001, New Zealand Journ. Zool. 28(2): 132, 178.


Treated under the genus Gallirallus by (Checklist Committee (OSNZ), 2022:56).


Conservation Status


Last record: 1840 (Hutton, 1872; Fleming, 1939; Checklist Committee (OSNZ), 2022:56)

IUCN RedList status: Extinct



Chatham Islands, New Zealand


Biology & Ecology




Only known from the holotype.



Above: Rallus philipensis and Rallus dieffenbachii. Plate 21. From the book A history of the birds of New Zealand., 1873, by Johannes Keulemans. Te Papa (RB001176/021a)


Above: Dieffenbach's Rail / Mehoriki. Gallirallus dieffenbachii. From the series: Extinct Birds of New Zealand., circa 2004, Masterton, by Paul Martinson. Purchased 2006. © Te Papa. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (2006-0010-1/45)



Original scientific description:

Gray, G. R. (1843). In: Dieffenbach, E. (ed.). Travels in New Zealand; with contributions to the geography, geology, botany, and natural history of that country, wolume 2. London: John Murray.


Other references:

Andrews, C. W. (1896). On the extinct birds of the Chatham Islands. Part II. The Osteology of Palaeolimnas chathamensis and Nesolimnas (gen. nov.) dieffenbachii. Nov. Zool. 3: 260-271.

BirdLife International. (2012). Hypotaenidia dieffenbachii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. ( Downloaded on 05 July 2015.

BirdLife International. (2016). Hypotaenidia dieffenbachii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22692455A93354540. Downloaded on 27 June 2021.

Brooks, T. 2000. Extinct species. In: BirdLife International (ed.), Threatened Birds of the World, pp. 701-708. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge, U.K.

Buller, W. L. (1873). Notes on the Little Bittern of New Zealand. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 6: 119-121, pl. 21.

Buller, W. L. (1887-88). A history of the birds of New Zealand. 2 volumes. London: Taylor & Francis.

Checklist Committee (OSNZ). (2010). Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand, Norfolk and Macquarie Islands, and the Ross Dependency, Antarctica (4th ed.). Ornithological Society of New Zealand & Te Papa Press, Wellington. [p. 180-181, 356]

Checklist Committee (OSNZ). (2022). Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand (5th edition). Ornithological Society of New Zealand Occasional Publication No. 1. Wellington: Ornithological Society of New Zealand. [p. 56]

Day, David. (1981). The Doomsday Book of Animals: A Natural History of Vanished Species. New York, N.Y.: The Viking Press.

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.

FLEMING, C. A., 1939: Birds of the Chatham Islands. Emu 38: 330-413, 492-509.

Fuller, Errol. (2000). Extinct birds, revised edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Greenway, J. C. (1967). Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World. Dover Publications, New York.

Holdaway, Richard N., Worthy, Trevor H. and Tennyson, Alan J. D. (2001). A working list of breeding bird species of the New Zealand region at first human contact. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 28: 119-187.

Hume, Julian Pender and Walters, Michael. (2012). Extinct Birds. London: T & AD Poyser.

Hutton, F. W. (1872). Notes on some birds from the Chatham Islands, collected by H. H. Travers, Esq.; with descriptions of two new species. Ibis 2(3): 243-250.

Hutton, F. W. (1874). On a new genus of Rallidae. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 6: 108-110.

Iwaniuk, Andrew N. et al. (2004). A comparative test of the correlated evolution of flightlessness and relative brain size in birds. J. Zool, Land. 263: 317-327.

Knox, Alan G. and Walters, Michael P. (1994). Extinct and endangered birds in the collections of The Natural History Museum. British Ornithologists' Club Occasional Publications 1: 1-292.

Marchant, S.; Higgins, P. J. 1993. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds, 2: raptors to lapwings. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Marples, B. K. (1946). List of the birds of New Zealand. Notornis 1(supp.): i-vii.

Millener PR (1999) The history of the Chatham Islands’ bird fauna of the last 7000 years—a chronicle of change and extinction. In Olson SL, ed., Avian Paleontology at the Close of the 20th Century: Proceedings of the 4th International Meeting of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution, Washington DC ., 4–7 June 1996. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 89, 85–109.

Olson, Storrs L. (1973). A classification of the Rallidae. Wilson Bulletin 85: 381-416.

Olson, S.L. 1975. A review of the extinct rails of the New Zealand region (Aves: Rallidae). Records of the National Museum of New Zealand 1: 63-79.

Ripley, S. D. (1977). Rails of the world. Boston: Godine.

Robertson, H. A., Baird, K. A., Elliott, G. P., Hitchmough, R. A., McArthur, N. J., Makan, T. D., Miskelly, Colin M., O’Donnell, C. F. J., Sagar, P. M., Scofield, R. P., Taylor, G. A. and Michel, P. (2021). Conservation status of birds in Aotearoa New Zealand, 2021. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 36. Department of Conservation, Wellington. 43 pp.

Hugh Robertson, John Dowding, Graeme Elliott, Rod Hitchmough, Colin Miskelly, Colin O’Donnell, Ralph Powlesland, Paul Sagar, Paul Scofield, Graeme Taylor. (2013). Conservation status of New Zealand birds, 2012. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 4. 22 pp.

Rothschild, Lionel Walter. (1907). Extinct birds: an attempt to write 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. XXIX + 243 pp. [p. 125-126, pl. 27]

Scarlett, R. J. 1979. Letters. Notornis 26: 99.

Tennyson, A. J. D. and Millener, P. R. (1994). Bird extinctions and fossil bones from Mangere Island, Chatham Islands. Notornis (supplement) 41: 165-178.

Travers, H. H. and Travers, W. T. L. (1872). On the birds of the Chatham Islands, with introductory remarks on the avifauna and flora of the islands in their relation to those of New Zealand. Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 5: 212-222.

Trewick, S. A. (1997a). Sympatric flightless rails Gallirallus dieffenbachii and G. modestus on the Chatham Islands, New Zealand; morphometrics and alternative evolutionary scenarios. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 27: 451-464.

Trewick, S. A. (1997b). Flightlessness and phylogeny amongst endemic rails (Aves: Rallidae) of the New Zealand region. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London B: 352: 429-446.

Tyrberg, Tommy. (2009). Holocene avian extinctions, pp. 63-106. In: Turvey, Samuel T. (ed.). Holocene Extinctions. Oxford, UK & New York, USA: Oxford University Press. xii + 352 pp.

Williams, G. R. (1962). Extinction and the land and freshwater-inhabiting birds of New Zealand. Notornis 10(1): 15-32.

Worthy, Trevor H. and Holdaway, Richard N. (2002). The Lost World of the Moa: Prehistoric Life of New Zealand. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. xxxiii + 718 pp.


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