Le Guats Giant

Unknown Bird of Mauritius.

Scientific name: Leguatia gigantea, given by Hermann Schlegel in 1858.

Variant name: Giant wat er hen. Physical description: Size of a goose. Whit e plumage. Small red pat ch under t he wings. Fat. Beak like a goose's but sharper. Long neck that ext ends to a height of 6 feet. Toes are l ong and widely separat ed.

Behavior: Ungainly. Often attacked by dogs. Good t o eat .

Habitat: Marshes.

Le Guat's GIANT, a large white bird reported on Mauritius in the 1690s by François Le Guat. From his Voyage et avantures de François Leguat (Amsterdam: Chez Jean Louis de Lorme, 1708). (From the original in the Special Collections of Northwestern University Library)

Distribution: Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean.

Significant sighting: Huguenot refugee François Le Guat saw large, white birds in the 1690s on Mauritius and Rodrigues. They have not been report ed since. Possible explanations:

(1) An unknown species of Rail (Family Ral l idae), now ext inct.

(2) A misident ified Gallinule (Gallinula spp.) or Flamingo (Phoe^icopterus ruber), which is about 4 feet l ong and has a 5-foot

292 le guat's giant wingspan. Although an accurate observer in other matters, Le Guat may have failed to describe the bird properly. Sources: François Le Guat, Voyage et avantures de François Leguat (Amsterdam: Chez Jean Louis de Lorme, 1708); Lionel Walter Rothschild, Extinct Birds (London: Hutchinson, 1907), pl. 31; Masauji Hachisuka, The Dodo and Kindred Birds (London: H. F. and G. Witherby, 1953); Errol Fuller, Extinct Birds (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001), p. 386.

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