Sora Life History

Habitat

Habitat Marshes

Soras spend most of the year in freshwater and brackish wetlands with cattail, sedges, and rushes. During migration and winter, they also use wet pastures, ditches, impoundments, and flooded fields.

Back to top

Food

Food Seeds

Soras primarily eat seeds from wetland plants, but also eat aquatic invertebrates. They rake floating vegetation with their long toes in search of sedge, bulrush, grass, rice, and smartweed seeds. They also peck at the water's surface for seeds and aquatic insects such as snails, dragonflies, flies, and beetles.

Back to top

Nesting

Nest Placement

Nest Floating

Soras nest at the edges of shallow wetlands (less than about 8 inches deep) in dense patches of cattails and sedges. They build a nest either on top of mounds of vegetation or attached to plant stems above the surface of the water.

Nest Description

Females loosely weave together a shallow basket with cattails and sedges that is approximately 6 inches wide. Females build the nest, but males often bring them vegetation for the nest. The female starts laying eggs as soon as she completes the foundation and continues to add material to the nest while laying. Females also bend down the vegetation above the nest, tucking the ends into the rim to provide additional cover.

Nesting Facts
Egg Description:

Cream to cinnamon-colored with irregular brown spots.

Condition at Hatching:

Covered in black down with orange tufts at the base of the lower bill.

Back to top

Behavior

Behavior Ground Forager

Soras flick their tail as they walk slowly along the muddy edges of wetlands pecking at the surface for seeds, but they can also run with lightning speed and disappear from view in a flash. They often stay hidden in dense vegetation, but forage in the open and swim across open water on occasion. Soras tend toward secrecy, but they aggressively defend their territories from other Soras. Their threat display includes neck stretching, bowing, and tail and wing spreading. If displaying fails to warn off an intruder, the territory owner gives chase. Males and females form monogamous bonds during the breeding season. Pairs court each other with a 15–30-minute stare-down followed by preening.

Back to top

Conservation

Conservation Low Concern

Soras are common and the most abundant rail species in North America. Their population was stable between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight rates Sora a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, which means it is not on the Partners in Flight Watch List. Although Sora populations are stable, they rely on wetland habitat that is dwindling due to urban and agricultural development. Soras migrate at night and frequently collide with lighted towers during migration, which could potentially affect the population. Sora hunting is legal in 31 states and in Manitoba and Ontario, Canada, but the popularity of hunting Sora has declined in recent years and it is unclear if hunting has any significant impacts.

Back to top

Credits

Melvin, Scott M. and James P. Gibbs. 2012. Sora (Porzana carolina), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski, Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

Back to top