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Porzana pusilla (Baillon's crake) 

Kleinriethaan [Afrikaans]; Isazenza, Isizinzi [Xhosa]; isiZinzi (also applied to African rail) [Zulu]; Katukutuku (generic term for crake) [Kwangali]; Nhapata (generic name for coot, gallinule, moorhen, crake or rail) [Shona]; Kleinst waterhoen [Dutch]; Marouette de Baillon [French]; Zwergsumpfhuhn [German]; Franga-d'įgua-pequena [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Gruiformes > Family: Rallidae

Porzana pusilla (Baillon's crake)   

Baillon's crake, Borakalalo National Park, North West Province, South Africa. [photo Sammy Janse van Rensburg]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs across the Old World, from Europe to eastern Asia, Indonesia, Australia, and Africa from Ethiopia through the DRC to southern Africa. Here it is generally uncommon in northern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, central Zimbabwe and patches of South Africa. It generally prefers dense vegetation in pans, marshes, seasonally flooded grassland and margins of open water.

Distribution of Baillon's crake in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  



Recorded by O.M. Prozesky, Pretoria 1970, [© Transvaal Museum]

Recorded by W.B. Keeble, Waterberg, Namibia 1964, [© Transvaal Museum]

Movements and migrations

Little known, although it is thought to be largely resident, with some moving seasonally in response to environmental conditions.


Mainly eats invertebrates, supplemented with fish, doing most of its foraging on mud or floating vegetation along the edges of water bodies. It mainly catches prey by plucking them from the vegetation and probing the ground. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous territorial solitary nester, defending its territory by chasing away intruders and regularly displaying.
  • The nest is saucer-shaped pad of dry grass, sedge stems, reeds and other leaves, typically placed close to the water in or between grass or sedge tufts.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-November in the Western Cape and from December-May elsewhere in southern Africa. 
  • It lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated by both adults for about 17-20 days, defending the nest by either sitting tight or pecking at the intruder.
  • The chicks leave the nest after about 24 hours and brooded and fed by both parents, learning to self-feed after a few days and becoming fully independent before fledging at about 35 days old.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.