Conservation status Most populations should be considered threatened or endangered because of extremely limited habitat.
Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots
Habitat Salt marshes along the coast, also brackish and freshwater marshes inland. Along the Pacific Coast, strictly a bird of salt marsh, sometimes in adjacent brackish marsh. The "Yuma" Clapper Rail inhabits freshwater marsh along the lower Colorado River and nearby areas.
A close relative of the Clapper Rail of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, and was considered part of the same species until recently. It has a patchy distribution in salt marshes of the Pacific Coast, as well as inland around the salty waters of the Salton Sea. Unlike the Clapper Rail, it also lives in freshwater marshes, along the lower Colorado River and its tributaries.

Feeding Behavior

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, 23-29 days.


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.


Courtship displays are not well known. 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 mostly by male) 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.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Found all year in most parts of range. Some may leave upstream areas of Colorado and Gila Rivers in winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

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