- ORDER: Gruiformes
- FAMILY: Rallidae
The loud, clattering outbursts of Clapper Rails are a signature sound of saltmarshes and mangroves in eastern North America and the Caribbean. It’s much rarer to catch sight of these large, chestnut-and-gray rails, as these shy birds emerge only briefly onto mudflats and quickly vanish again into the dense marsh grasses. King Rails can be very similar, but are typically more brightly colored and favor freshwater marshes.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Rails are famously secretive, so look and listen for them when they're most active: at dawn, dusk, and in the spring. Focus on areas with good sight lines, such as creek channels or where open mudflats meet patches of cordgrass. Move around gently and look for moving vegetation or ripples. Also, check the tides—search upper edges of marsh on high tides; scan newly exposed mudflats at low tides. Listen for their loud “clapper” calls or a series of repeated “kek” notes. King Rails also give “kek” calls, but Clapper Rails usually call faster than King Rails and vary the pacing of their calls more.
- Rascón Crepitante (Spanish)
- Râle tapageur (French)
- Cool Facts
- Clapper Rails and King Rails hybridize when they come into contact in brackish marshes.
- The name Clapper Rail used to refer to populations in eastern and western North America, Central America, and South America, but in 2014 that species was split into three species—Ridgway’s Rail, Mangrove Rail, and Clapper Rail, which is now restricted to the eastern United States, eastern Mexico, northeastern Central America, and the Caribbean.
- Clapper Rails have special salt glands that enable them to drink sea water.
- Eggs submerged in up to 18 inches of water during high tide are still capable of hatching.
- Parents are very attentive to young chicks, sheltering and warming them continually for their first few days on the original nest, a temporary brood nest, or floating debris.
- Chicks less than two weeks old are carried on the adults’ backs during periods of high water or when the birds move across open water.
- When chicks are about a week old, the parents divide the brood and each look after half the offspring.
- The oldest recorded Clapper Rail was a male, and at least 7 years, 6 months old when he was shot in New Jersey in 1977. He had been banded in the same state in 1971.