|Conservation status||Apparently has declined in many parts of range with loss of freshwater marsh habitat. However, still widespread and common.|
|Family||Rails, Gallinules, Coots|
|Habitat||Fresh marshes, wet meadows; in winter, also salt marshes. Occurs in a variety of marshy situations, from extensive river marshes to grassy edges of small ponds. Also in damp meadows, and sometimes in tall-grass fields some distance from water. Breeds mostly in freshwater habitat with large stands of cattails, but moves into salt marshes at times, especially in winter.|
Forages by picking items from surface of ground, water, or plants; sometimes probes with its bill in mud or among vegetation.
10-12, sometimes 6-18. Rich buff, spotted with brown. Number of eggs is large for nest, so eggs are sometimes arranged in two layers. Incubation is by both sexes, 18-20 days. Young: Because incubation begins after first few eggs are laid, eggs do not hatch at same time; one parent may care for downy hatchlings while other continues to incubate remaining eggs. Young leave nest shortly after hatching, are fed by both parents. Age at first flight 21-25 days.
Because incubation begins after first few eggs are laid, eggs do not hatch at same time; one parent may care for downy hatchlings while other continues to incubate remaining eggs. Young leave nest shortly after hatching, are fed by both parents. Age at first flight 21-25 days.
Mostly seeds, insects, snails. At least at some seasons, feeds mainly on seeds, including those of smartweeds, sedges, grasses, other marsh plants. May feed heavily on wild rice in late summer and fall. Also eats a wide variety of insects, snails, other aquatic invertebrates.
Courtship displays by both members of a pair involve ceremonial preening, sometimes bowing, facing toward and then away from each other. Nest site is in dense marsh vegetation, especially cattails, sedges, bulrushes. Nest (built by both sexes) is well-built cup of dead cattails, grasses, other plants, lined with finer material, placed a few inches above water. Often has vegetation arched over top, and sometimes has ramp or runway of plant material leading to nest.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Large numbers may gather in some marshes in late summer and early fall, feeding and building up fat reserves before migrating south. Apparently migrates mostly at night. Readily crosses bodies of water such as Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea.
- 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 CallsMost familiar call is a musical series of piping notes rapidly descending the scale; also a repeated ker-wee, with rising inflection. Near the nest, birds utter an explosive keek!
Learn more about this sound collection.