Porphyrio paepae Steadman, 1988:163

Marquesas swamphen, Marquesan swamphen, Koao? (see below)



Taxonomy & Nomenclature



Conservation Status


Last record: Holocene; c.1900?; 1937?

IUCN RedList status: Extinct


Paul Gauguin’s 1902 painting Le Sorcier d’Hiva Oa ou le Marquisien à la cape rouge has been suggested to contain a depiction of a dog killing a Marquesas swamphen (P. paepae) (Raynal, 2002; Steadman, 2006; Turvey & Cooper, 2009:207-208). Thor Heyerdahl reported seeing a flightless bird which his guide told him the locals called the Koao, which may represent a living individual of this species (Shuker, 1999:27-28). It has also apparently been seen on other occasions (Ibid.), in contrast to some other sources ("Heyerdahl 1974 per T. Tyrberg in litt. 2014").



Hiva Oa and Tahuata, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia


Biology & Ecology







Paul Gauguin's 1902 painting  entitle 'Le Sorcier d'Hiva Oa ou le Marquisien à la cape rouge' may depict this species in the lower right corner ([url=]source[/url]).



Original scientific description:

Steadman, David W. (1988). A new species of Porphyrio (Aves: Rallidae) from archeological sites in the Marquesas Islands. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 101(1): 162-170.


Other references:

BirdLife International. (2014). Porphyrio paepae. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. ( Downloaded on 26 July 2014.

BirdLife International. 2017. Porphyrio paepae (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T62263064A119207668. Accessed on 30 June 2022.

Heyerdahl, Thor. (1974). Fatu-Hiva: Back to nature. Garden City.

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. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.

Hume, Julian Pender and Walters, Michael. (2012). Extinct Birds. London: T & AD Poyser. 544 pp.

Livezey, Bradley C. (1998). A phylogenetic analysis of the Gruiformes (Aves) based on morphological characters, with an emphasis on the rails (Rallidae). Phil.Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 353: 2077-2151.

Raynal, M. (2002). Une répresentation picturale de l’oiseau mystérieux d’Hiva-Oa. Cryptozoologia 47: 3-10.

Shuker, Karl P. N. (1999). Mysteries of Planet Earth: An Encyclopedia of the Inexplicable. Carlton Books. 192 pp.

Steadman, David W. (2006). Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press. xiv + 594 pp.

Steadman DW and Rolett B (1996) A chronostratigraphic analysis of the extinction of landbirds on Tahuata, Marquesas Islands. Journal of Archaeological Science 23: 81-94.

Turvey, Samuel T. and Cooper, Joanne H. (2009). The past is another country: is evidence for prehistoric, historical, and present-day extinction really comparable?, pp. 193-212. In: Turvey, Samuel T. (ed.). Holocene Extinctions. Oxford, UK & New York, USA: Oxford University Press. xii + 352 pp.

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.


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