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Extinct Subspecies Though a bird of brackish or freshwater marshes with abundant floating vegetation elsewhere in the range of the species, the endemic subspecies brevipes of Naka-iwo-jima [and Minami-iwo-jima?] in the Iwo Is. (W Pacific, belonging to Japan) inhabited grasses, herbs, and scrub along rivulets as well as damp places in virgin forest. Due to an increasing human population on Naka from 1910 onwards, its habitat degraded, and natural water sources became scarce. Therefore, the birds had to depend on water tanks near houses in the dry season, where they were easily caught by feral or domestic cats. The last birds collected for science were in 1911 (the 12 birds of the type-series of brevipes), and the last bird seen was in 1920-1925 (Greenway 1967).
Items in the ZMA - 1 bird:
ZMA 44601 Adult male, 19 Feb 1910, 'St Dionisio' [= Minami-iwo-jima I. (24°12'N, 141°26'E), but see Remarks], 'Volcan Is.' [= Kazan-retto or Iwo Is.], Japan, coll. Kobayashi, ex Snouckaert 4601, ex Sillem-Van Marle 4601, skin.
As Minami-iwo-jima is small, steep, uninhabited, and waterless, the bird probably lived on the larger flat Naka-iwo-jima only (Nat. Sci. Mus. Monogr. Tokyo 28, p. 22-23, 2005). The names of the then uninhabited islands were often confused in the past. Other populations of the species are common and widespread from the Greater Sunda Is. and the Philippines east to Samoa, south to N Australia, and N to Micronesia. Within this area, some geographic variation is apparent, but due to the strongly clinal character no races are separated other than nominate cinereus (Mees 1982). Thus brevipes, with its more rufous lower flanks and under tail-coverts, deeper bill base, and markedly shorter tarsus and toes (the latter undoubtedly due to adaptation to its forest floor habitat) was the only recognisable other race.
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