Clapper Rail

Rallus longirostris




Rails, Gallinules and Coots (Rallidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Buff to olive with brown markings

Number of Eggs:

2 - 16

Incubation Days:

18 - 29

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

On ground.

Nest Material:

Aquatic vegetation.


Northern birds migrate



Clapper Rail: Large, noisy marsh bird with gray or brown upperparts, vertical white-barred flanks and belly, buff or rust-brown breast, and buff underparts. Bill is long and slightly decurved. Gulf coast populations have rust-brown underparts. Sexes are similar. Juvenile is more uniformly colored. In 2016 the American Ornithologist Union split the Clapper Rail into three species, the Clapper Rail, Ridgway's Rail and Mangrove Rail (not in North America).

Range and Habitat

Clapper Rail: Found along the east coast of North America, from New England to Texas. Also occurs along the coasts of many islands of the Caribbean, and parts of the Yucatan Peninsula and Belize. Resident in most of its range, except for the northern parts where it occurs as a breeding visitor. Preferred habitats include coastal saltwater marshes.

Breeding and Nesting

Clapper Rail: Two to sixteen brown marked, buff to olive eggs are laid in a nest made of rushes, sedges, and cord grass, and hidden in tall vegetation. Incubation ranges from 18 to 29 days and is carried out by both parents.

Foraging and Feeding

Clapper Rail: Feeds mainly on crayfish, small crabs, small fish, frogs, slugs, snails, insects, and seeds; forages on the ground and while wading in shallow water.


Clapper Rail: Produces a variety of calls, from a "he-e-eh-heh-heh-heh" to a raucous "chack-chack-chack." Call is always loud and clattering in series of 20 to 25 notes, lowering in pitch and increasing in tempo. Females give a "purr" call.

Similar Species

Clapper Rail: Virginia Rail is much smaller, cheeks are more gray, and bill is orange. King Rail is similar physically but occurs only in fresh and brackish water habitats; calls very similar, but slower.


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

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
The upper front part of a bird.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X