In late January 2023, I had the pleasure of seeing the Slaty-legged Crake in Malaysia at the Taman Botani Negara in Shah Alam, Selangor. This bird has been appearing at a a feeding station originally set up to photograph Pittas and has been delighting birders and photographers alike since mid-January 2023. The photography station is located at the entrance to Lorong Sabar, and as of 11/2/2023, the crake can still be seen there.
Slaty-legged Crake in Malaysia
According to my field guide, this bird is a scarce winter visitor and passage migrant to Peninsular Malaysia. therefore, it would likely occur here during the northern winter season, which is from October to March. However, this bird is not typically found in Malaysian Borneo.
Like most crakes, it is shy and reclusive, usually keeping to dense vegetation and moving around unobtrusively. Head over to its Wikipedia page for more information.
How to identify the Slaty-legged Crake?
Known scientifically as Rallina eurizonoides, this bird looks similar to several other crake species, such as the Red-legged Crake, Ruddy-breasted Crake or the Band-bellied Crake, which can all be encountered in Peninsular Malaysia.
The key to identifying this particular species is as follows:
- Shaped like a small chicken or waterhen
- Orange head, neck and breast
- Brown wings and back
- Black-and-white striping (barring) on its belly and vent
- Slaty-grey colour of the legs and beak. This is important as these features separate it from other similar-looking crake species.
Where to look for the Slaty-legged Crake in Malaysia?
Identifying the crake is relatively straightforward compared to finding one. According to eBird, sightings of the Slaty-legged Crake in Malaysia have been rare. Most sightings from the past ten years have been in Fraser’s Hill, with more recent ones coming from Air Itam Dalam in Penang.
These sightings seem to be of a single individual attracted to a feeding spot or similar. No recent records of this species in Malaysian Borneo. However, it is likely some sightings are left unrecorded in eBird.
The best places to encounter this bird would likely be in its preferred habitat – forest swamps, rivers or streams. However, seeing one in the wild by chance would require a hefty dose of luck!
Update July 2023: There has been recent sightings of this species in Malaysian Borneo; specifically, at Labuan island. The most recent sighting is on 19/6/2023 and a previous one occurred in 2018 (also at Labuan). Nevertheless, this species remains rare and difficult to encounter in Borneo.
Indeed, encountering the Slaty-legged Crake in Malaysia was an amazing experience. For such an elusive bird to be seen in such an accessible place is undoubtedly wonderful. For those lucky enough to see one, cherish it, for it may be some time before you see another again.
Puan, C.L., Davison, G. & Lim, K.C. (2020). Birds of Malaysia. Covering Peninsular Malaysia, Malaysian Borneo and Singapore. Lynx and BirdLife International Field Guides. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.