|Conservation status||Undoubtedly has declined in this century, especially at southern end of breeding range, because of loss of habitat. Localized race in central Mexico is probably endangered if not extinct.|
|Family||Rails, Gallinules, Coots|
|Habitat||Grassy marshes, meadows. In summer, favors large wet meadows or shallow marshes dominated by sedges and grasses. Typically in fresh or brackish marsh with water no more than a foot deep. In winter mostly in coastal salt marsh, especially drier areas with dense stands of spartina; also rice fields, damp meadows near coast.|
Foraging of wild birds essentially unknown. Yellow Rails in captivity feed only by day, picking food from ground, plants, or water.
Usually 8-10. Buffy white, with reddish brown spots around larger end. Incubation is apparently by female only, about 17-18 days. Male may remain near nest during incubation. Young: Apparently fed by female only. Remain in nest only about 2 days, then follow female about in marsh. When not foraging, female and brood go to second nest (not the one in which the eggs hatched). Young find much of their own food after 2 weeks, all of it after 3 weeks; probably able to fly at about 5 weeks.
Apparently fed by female only. Remain in nest only about 2 days, then follow female about in marsh. When not foraging, female and brood go to second nest (not the one in which the eggs hatched). Young find much of their own food after 2 weeks, all of it after 3 weeks; probably able to fly at about 5 weeks.
Mostly insects, snails, seeds. Diet not well known, but small freshwater snails reported to be important at some seasons. Eats a wide variety of insects (especially aquatic ones), also spiders, small crustaceans, probably earthworms. Also eats many seeds, at least in fall and winter.
Male defends territory by calling, mostly at night. In courtship, male and female may preen each other's feathers. Nest site is in shallow part of marsh, on damp soil or over water less than 6" deep. Nest is shallow cup of sedges and grasses, with concealing canopy of dead plants above it. May build more than one nest, with extra(s) being used for brooding the chicks after they leave their hatching nest. Male takes part in starting nests, but female completes the work.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migrates at night. Very rarely detected in migration, but individuals sometimes found when they stop over in city parks or other spots with little cover. Migrates south mostly in September and October, north mostly in April and early May.
- 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 Calls2 or 3 clicks, sounding like pebbles being tapped together, repeated over and over in a long series. Usually heard at night.
Learn more about this sound collection.