Yellow Rail

Coturnicops noveboracensis




Rails, Gallinules and Coots (Rallidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Creamy buff sometimes spotted with red brown

Number of Eggs:

7 - 10

Incubation Days:

11 - 12

Egg Incubator:


Nest Location:

Anchored to vegetation in open water.

Nest Material:






Yellow Rail: Small rail with pale yellow-striped, dark brown upperparts. Throat is white, breast is buff, and flanks and belly are barred black-and-white. Head has buff face with dark brown cap and eye patches. Bill is short and yellow. Wings are dark with large white patches visible in flight. Tail is short and black. Sexes are similar. Juvenile is darker.

Range and Habitat

Yellow Rail: Breeds from the Maritime Provinces to British Columbia and the southern part of the Northwest Territories, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Northern California. Migrates along the Atlantic coast to North Carolina and through the Midwest. Winters along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas and along the southern Atlantic states. Prefers wet meadows, and shallow grassy marshes with sedges. Winters on salt marshes, and rice fields.

Breeding and Nesting

Yellow Rail: Seven to ten creamy buff eggs, sometimes spotted with red brown, are laid in a woven cup nest of dead grasses built above the water, typically on a tussock. Incubation ranges from 16 to 18 days and is carried out by the female.

Foraging and Feeding

Yellow Rail: Diet includes snails, beetles, grasshoppers, aquatic bugs, dragonfly nymphs, damselfly nymphs, spiders, crayfish, slugs, leeches, tadpoles, small fish, arrowhead, smartweed, pondweed, bur reed, bristle grass, wheat, oats, bulrush, grass, and spikerush.


Yellow Rail: Males make distinct clicking sounds resembling two stones being banged together "tic-tic, tictictic, tic-tic tictictic."

Similar Species

Yellow Rail: Immature Sora is much larger, has bright yellow bill, white undertail coverts, and darker upperparts spotted with white.

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.
The area on top of the head of the bird.
The front part of the head consisting of the bill, eyes, cheeks and chin.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X