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Virginia Rail

Rallus limicola ORDER: GRUIFORMES FAMILY: RALLIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A secretive bird of freshwater marshes, the Virginia Rail most often remains hidden in dense vegetation. It possesses many adaptations for moving through its habitat, including a laterally compressed body, long toes, and flexible vertebrae.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
7.9–10.6 in
20–27 cm
Wingspan
12.6–15 in
32–38 cm
Weight
2.3–3.4 oz
65–95 g
Other Names
  • Râle de Virginie (French)
  • Rascón de agua (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The forehead feathers of the Virginia Rail are adapted to withstand wear from pushing through dense marsh vegetation.
  • The Virginia Rail can swim under water, propelling itself with its wings. It swims in this way probably only to flee predators.
  • The Virginia Rail and other rail species have the highest ratio of leg muscles to flight muscles of any birds.
  • The Virginia Rail builds numerous "dummy nests" in addition to the one where eggs are actually laid.

Habitat


Marsh

Freshwater marshes; occasionally inhabits salt marshes. Lives in dense emergent vegetation.

Food


Insects

Insects, insect larvae, other aquatic invertebrates, fish, frogs, and small snakes.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
4–13 eggs
Egg Description
White or buff with sparse irregular gray or brown spotting.
Condition at Hatching
Covered with black down, leave nest within one day. Fed by parents.
Nest Description

Basket of loosely woven vegetation, often with a canopy, usually placed above shallow water.

Nest Placement

Ground

Behavior


Probing

Probes water and mud with bill.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Declining in some areas, but not protected by special designations or measures. Information on population trends is sparse.

Credits

  • Conway, C. J. 1995. Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola). In The Birds of North America, No. 173 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Range Map Help

Virginia Rail Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings