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Virginia Rail Rallus limicola


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Virginia Rail
credit: Mike Baird/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Rallidae, Rails, Gallinules, Coots view all from this family

Description ADULT Has orange-buff throat, neck, and breast, contrasting with black and white stripes on rear flanks, gray cheeks, and dark brown crown. Upperparts are orange-brown with dark feather centers. Bill is long, slightly decurved, and reddish, and legs are reddish pink; note the beady red eye. JUVENILE Similar to adult, but orange elements of plumage are gray or dark brown, and bill is dark.

Dimensions Length: 9-11" (23-28 cm)

Habitat Common summer visitor to freshwater marshes. Present year-round on parts of Atlantic coast, but most winter in southern U.S. and Mexico, then favoring both brackish and freshwater marshes.

Observation Tips Scan wetland margins where emergent vegetation meets open mud for the best chances of observation.

Range Texas, Southeast, Great Lakes, California, Rocky Mountains, Eastern Canada, Northwest, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Western Canada, Plains, Southwest, New England

Voice Utters a distinctive wik-wiDik-wiDik in breeding season; piglike squeals heard year-round.

Discussion Small, long-billed rail. Shy, furtive, and heard more often than it is seen. Laterally compressed body allows it to pass with ease through dense emergent wetland vegetation. Long toes enable it to walk on yielding mud. Sexes are similar.