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King Rail


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A large rail of freshwater marshes, the King Rail has declined alarmingly in much of its range over the last 40 years.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
15–18.9 in
38–48 cm
19.7 in
50 cm
10.8–13.1 oz
305–370 g
Other Names
  • Râle élégant (French)
  • Rascón real, Gallina de agua (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The adult King Rail molts completely after nesting and is flightless for nearly a month.
  • The King Rail 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.
  • The male King Rail presents food to its mate during courtship. One male was observed to catch seven crayfish within two hours, and he presented five of those to his mate.



Freshwater and brackish marshes, rice fields.



Crustaceans, especially crayfish, aquatic insects, and small fish.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
6–14 eggs
Egg Description
Pale buff with a few irregular brown spots.
Condition at Hatching
Covered with black down, leave nest within one day. Fed by parents.
Nest Description

A round elevated platform of grasses, sedges, or rushes, with a saucer-shaped depression, usually with a round or cone-shaped canopy and a ramp. Placed in clump of grass just above water.

Nest Placement




Forages mostly during the day, in areas concealed by plant cover or in comparatively open areas where it blends with its surroundings and is only a few steps from cover. In tidal areas, most feeding is at low tide. Generally forages in water so shallow that only the bill, or part of it, disappears beneath the surface.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Severe declines in northern part of range, but populations appear stable in southern states, especially Louisiana and Florida. Declines related to loss of wetlands. This species is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation action.


  • Meanley, B. 1992. King Rail (Rallus elegans). In The Birds of North America, No. 3 (A. Poole, P. Stettenheim, and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington, DC.: The American Ornithologists’ Union.

Range Map Help

King Rail Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings


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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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