|Conservation status||Still fairly common, but has seriously declined in parts of the east. Loss of habitat is main threat.|
|Family||Rails, Gallinules, Coots|
|Habitat||Salt marshes, rarely brackish; locally in mangroves in southeast. Along most of Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, strictly a bird of salt marsh, sometimes in adjacent brackish marsh. In Florida, also found in shallow mangrove swamps.|
Forages by walking in shallow water or on mud, especially on falling tide or at low tide, picking up items from the ground or vegetation, sometimes probing in mud or water.
Usually 7-11, sometimes 5-12 or more. Pale yellow to olive-buff, blotched with brown and gray. Incubation is by both sexes, 20-23 days. Young: Downy young may leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents probably feed young. Parents may brood young in a separate nest from the one in which the eggs hatched. Young can fly in about 9-10 weeks.
Downy young may leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents probably feed young. Parents may brood young in a separate nest from the one in which the eggs hatched. Young can fly in about 9-10 weeks.
Includes crustaceans, insects, fish. Diet varies with locality, and includes a wide variety of small prey. Crustaceans often favored, especially crabs, also crayfish and others. Also eats many aquatic insects, small fish, mollusks, worms, frogs. Eats seeds at times.
In courtship displays, male approaches female, points bill down, and swings head from side to side; also stands erect with neck stretched, bill open. Male may feed female. Nest site is in clump of grass or other vegetation in marsh, near the upper reaches of high tide, or on bank near water. Nest (built by both sexes, although male may do more) is well-built cup of grasses and sedges, lined with finer material, often with vegetation woven into a canopy over nest. Often a ramp of plant material leads from ground up to nest.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Found all year in many parts of range. On Atlantic Coast, some withdrawal in winter from northern end of range, and an influx of northern birds is noted in parts of the southeast in winter.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsHarsh clattering kek-kek-kek-kek-kek.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Clapper Rail
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Clapper Rail
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.