Yellow Rail

Yellow Rail


Profile Yellow Rail
[Authority] Gmelin, 1789 | [group] Rails, crakes and allies | [order] GRUIFORMES | [family] Rallidae | [latin] Coturnicops noveboracensis | [UK] Yellow Rail |

[Authority] Gmelin, 1789 | [group] Rails, crakes and allies | [order] GRUIFORMES | [family] Rallidae | [latin] Coturnicops noveboracensis | [UK] Yellow Rail | [FR] Rale jaune | [DE] Gelbralle | [ES] Polluela Amarillenta | [NL] Gele Ral | copyright picture

Note the white wing patch (in flight). A small, buffy rail, suggesting a week-old chick. Bill very short, greenish. Back dark, striped and checkered with buff and black. Mouselike; difficult to see or flush.

Grassy marshes, meadows. In summer, favors large wet meadows or shallow marshes dominated by sedges and grasses. Typically in fresh or brackish marsh with water no more than a foot deep. In winter mostly in coastal salt marsh, especially drier areas with dense stands of spartina
; also rice fields, damp meadows near coast.

Mostly insects, snails, seeds. Diet not well known, but small freshwater snails are reported to
be important at some seasons. Eats a wide variety of insects (especially aquatic ones), also spiders, small crustaceans, probably earthworms. Also eats many seeds, at least in fall and winter.
Behavior: Foraging habits of wild birds essentially unknown. Yellow Rails in captivity feed only by day, picking food from ground, plants, or water.

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from]

Male defends territory by calling, mostly at night. In courtship, male and female may preen each others feathers.
Nest: Site is in shallow part of marsh, on d
amp soil or over water less than 6- deep. Nest is shallow cup of sedges and grasses, with concealing canopy of dead plants above it. May build more than one nest. Male takes part in starting nests, but female completes them.
Clutch Usually 8-10. Buffy white, with reddish brown spots. Incubation is apparently by female only, about 17-18 days.
Young: Apparently fed by female only. Remain in nest about 2 days, then follow female about in marsh. When not foraging, female and brood go to second nest (not the one
in which the eggs hatched). Young find much of their own food after 2 weeks, all of it after 3 weeks; probably able to fly at about 5 weeks.

Mainly Canada, northern United States east of Rockies. Winters southeastern United States. Breeds very locally within dash line. bMigration: M
igrates at night. Very rarely detected in migration, but individuals are sometimes found when they stop over in city parks or other spots with little cover. Migrates south mostly in September and October, north mostly in April and early May.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 28 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 33 cm
  4. size min.: 13 cm
  5. size max.: 18 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 16 days
  8. incubation max.: 18 days
  9. fledging min.: 33 days
  10. fledging max.: 36 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 7
  13. eggs max.: 10
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Yellow Rail status Least Concern


  1. Coturnicops noveboracensis goldmani
  2. c Mexico
  3. Coturnicops noveboracensis noveboracensis
  4. Canada, n USA
  5. Coturnicops noveboracensis
  6. NA e,c
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