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Virginia Rail


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.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
7.9–10.6 in
20–27 cm
12.6–15 in
32–38 cm
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.



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



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


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




Probes water and mud with bill.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

There is little information on Virginia Rail population numbers and trends. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, between 1966 and 2014 overall populations appear to have been stable, but the birds' secretive nature makes counts imprecise. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan rates the species a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and lists it as a Species of Moderate Concern. Virginia Rail is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Though the species appears to be declining in some areas, it is not protected by special designations or measures.


Range Map Help

Virginia Rail Range Map
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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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