King Rail

Rallus elegans

Order

GRUIFORMES

Family

Rails, Gallinules and Coots (Rallidae)

Code 4

KIRA

Code 6

RALELE

ITIS

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ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Near Threatened

The King Rail has a large range of more than three million square kilometers. This includes freshwater marshes, brackish marshes, rice fields, and grasslands near rivers in a large part of the eastern and mid-western United States, Cuba, and parts of eastern Mexico. Northern populations migrate to more southern parts of its range during the winter months. This species is threatened by degradation and loss of wetland habitats, and probably from pesticide use. It has been in steady decline since the 1940s in many parts of its range, and has an estimated population of 109,000-115,000 individuals. The King Rail has a conservation rating of Near Threatened.

IBIRD EXPLORER GENERAL

PHOTO SHARING AND DISCUSSION

BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

King Rail: Large rail with long, orange-based bill. Brown and red-brown mottled upperparts. Underparts are orange-brown with strongly barred black, white flanks. Prominent chestnut-brown patch on wing is visible on standing and flying birds. Feeds in shallow water or mudflats exposed at low tide.

 

Range and Habitat

King Rail: Prefer fresh water, but will also use brackish and tidal wetlands, along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts from Texas to New York. Common on the Gulf Coast, local and rare further inland. Northern birds migrate to the southern parts of their range for the winter. Found in extensive wetlands with shallow water, and a mosaic of plant species, such as grasses, cattails and sedges.

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SONGS AND CALLS

Voice Text

"kek"

INTERESTING FACTS

  • The King Rail was first described in 1834 by John James Audubon, an American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. It it is the largest North American rail.
  • It usually gets its food in aquatic habitats, but will feed on insects away from water. When it catches food on land, it often takes the item to water and dunks it before eating it.
  • They interbreed with the Clapper Rail where their ranges overlap; some researchers believe that these two birds belong to the same species.
  • A group of rails are collectively known as a "hill" and a "rumor" of rails.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP NORTH AMERICA

About this North America Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across North America.

FAMILY DESCRIPTION

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

David Wenzel

HELP ME IDENTIFY A BIRD

BACKYARD BIRDING

BIRDS AND BIRDING

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UnderpartsX

Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

UpperpartsX
Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X