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The Woodhen

Melanie Colón
  • A Flightless Island Bird Defying Extinction Frith, Clifford B. CSIRO Publishing 2013 http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/7011.htm English 09/01/2013 064310870X 9780643108707 No value No value

This book tells the fascinating success story of saving the flightless Woodhen of Lord Howe Island. This unique large rail, an iconic and highly endangered Australian bird, was at the very brink of extinction with just 15 individuals found in 1980, when bold and risky actions were taken to save it.


The book begins with the discovery and ecology of Lord Howe Island. It then details the history of the Woodhen, its place among the rails and their evolution of flightlessness, the planning, implementation and trials, tribulations and successes of the captive breeding programme and the way in which the wild population recovered. The ecology, behaviour and breeding biology of this unique flightless island rail are also discussed. The text is accompanied by numerous photographs and drawings.


This is a story of survival, yet the bird remains highly endangered as it is under constant potential threat, which could tip it over the brink and to extinction. The Woodhen provides gripping insights into the potential for both losing and saving vertebrate species.


Clifford Frith has authored four major ornithological monographs, two winning a prestigious Whitley Book Award, a substantial natural history of Australia’s Cape York Peninsula wilderness plus other titles. He was awarded, jointly with Dawn Frith, the 1996 D. L. Serventy Medal for original contributions to Australasian ornithology. His PhD, awarded by Griffith University, involved evolutionary studies of bowerbirds and birds of paradise.

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