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King Rail Identification

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The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    A large, chickenlike marsh bird with a small head and a long, slightly curved bill. It has a fairly long neck, a plump belly, short tail, and long, strong legs. Juveniles have shorter bills than adults.

    Relative Size

    Larger than a Virginia Rail, smaller than a Green Heron.

    Relative Sizebetween robin and crowbetween robin and crow

    • Both Sexes
      • Length: 15.0-18.9 in (38-48 cm)
      • Weight: 11.3-15.0 oz (320-425 g)
      • Wingspan: 19.7-20.5 in (50-52 cm)

Regional Differences

North American birds belong to the subspecies elegans; the only other subspecies, the smaller ramsdeni, inhabits Cuba and the Isle of Pines. The two look very similar.