King rail

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King rail
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae
Genus: Rallus
Species: R. elegans
Binomial name
Rallus elegans
Audubon, 1834

The king rail (Rallus elegans) is a waterbird, the largest North American rail.


Distinct features are a long bill with a slight downward curve, with adults being brown on the back and rusty-brown on the face and breast with a dark brown cap. They also have a white throat and a light belly with barred flanks. Immature birds are light brown on the head and darker brown on the back and wings.

Standard Measurements[2][3]
length 15.5–19 in (390–480 mm)
weight 290 g (10 oz)
wingspan 19 in (480 mm)
wing 159–177 mm (6.3–7.0 in)
tail 56–72.5 mm (2.20–2.85 in)
culmen 58–65.5 mm (2.28–2.58 in)
tarsus 52–64 mm (2.0–2.5 in)


They breed in marshes in eastern North America. The nest is a raised platform built with marsh vegetation and covered by a canopy. The king rail interbreeds with the clapper rail where their ranges overlap; some researchers believe that these two birds belong to the same species.

Nonmigratory birds located in central and western Mexico have now been split as Aztec rail.[4]

Birds along the southeastern coasts of the United States are permanent residents. Other birds migrate to the southern United States and Mexico; in Canada, they are found in southern Ontario.

These birds forage in shallow water near cover and mainly eat aquatic insects and crustaceans.

These birds are still common in some coastal areas, although interior populations have declined due to habitat loss.

This bird's call is a low repeated grunt transcribed as kek-kek-kek.[5]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2014). "Rallus elegans". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Godfrey, W. Earl (1966). The Birds of Canada. Ottawa: National Museum of Canada. p. 122. 
  3. ^ Sibley, David Allen (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Knopf. p. 153. ISBN 0-679-45122-6. 
  4. ^ Retter, Michael (30 July 2014). "2014 AOU Check-list Supplement is Out!". ABA Blog. American Birding Association, Inc. Retrieved 17 October 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  5. ^ Garrido, Orlando H.; Kirkconnell, Arturo (2000). Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba. Ithaca, NY: Comstock, Cornell University Press. pp. 76–77. ISBN 978-0-8014-8631-9. 

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