The ve'a, or “roadrunner,” is one of Samoa's most recognizable birds. It is a familiar sight tiptoeing out
of the grass or running crazily across the road, its neck stretched out and its big feet trying to keep up.
And its loud, screeching voice is a familiar sound, seeming to complain at the disturbance as we walk to
the taro patch. However, for all its abundance, the ve'a is still a little-known bird, quickly disappearing
from view when disturbed and impossible to follow in the thick grass it favors.
The ve'a is a very useful bird, eating many insects that can harm crops. In fact, it will eat almost
anything, including fruit, worms, snails, mice, and even toads squashed flat on the roads. It sometimes
can be seen deep in the forest, but prefers open areas with dense grass. Therefore, taro and banana
plantations are some of its favorite places. The nest of the ve'a is very hard to find, being built on the
ground well-hidden in thick grass. The ve'a lays 4 to 6 eggs. Like young chickens, young ve'a can run
around almost as soon as they hatch, and they leave the nest immediately.
The ve'a and its cousins belong to the family of birds known as the rails (named from an old English word meaning to screech―many of these birds have loud, harsh voices). The ve'a is called the Banded Rail, because of the black and white bands on its sides and underparts. It is found all across the Pacific from the Philippines and Indonesia to Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and on to Australia and New Zealand.
Craig, P. 2009. Natural History Guide to American Samoa 3rd Edition. National Park of American Samoa, Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, American Samoa Community College. Pago Pago, AS.
Foraging on mangrove fringe on true left bank. Grey heron also observed
1 seen sneaking into rushes on the side of a drain at low tide
Banded Rail? Seen inland on the edge of a fresh-water pond. Flew across to a small island with too much grass cover to continue observation.
watched it feeding in mangroves while I was kayaking in late afternoon. Tide was falling.
Saw bird feeding along mudflats prior to photographing feather.
I was excited to photograph this beautiful Gallirallus philippensis (Buff-banded Rail) my first morning on Lord Howe Island. After a few days I realized it's probably the most common land bird on the island.
Pair with young chick feeding on lawn. Observed two dead chicks whilst on island in the same area, possibly territorial behavior?
The Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis) is a distinctively coloured, highly dispersive, medium-sized rail of the family Rallidae. This species comprises several subspecies found throughout much of Australasia and the south-west Pacific region, including the Philippines (where it is known as Tikling), New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand (where it is known as the Banded Rail or Moho-pereru in Māori), and numerous smaller islands, covering a range of latitudes from the tropics to the Subantarctic.