Yellow rail

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Yellow rail
Yellow Rail.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae
Genus: Coturnicops
Species: C. noveboracensis
Binomial name
Coturnicops noveboracensis
(Gmelin, 1789)

The yellow rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis) is a small secretive marsh bird, of the family Rallidae.


Adults have brown upperparts streaked with black, a yellowish-brown breast, a light belly and barred flanks. The short thick dark bill turns yellow in males during the breeding season. The feathers on the back are edged with white. There is a yellow-brown band over the eye and the legs are greenish-yellow.

specimen at AMNH


Their breeding habitat is wet meadows, fens and shallow marshes across Canada east of the Rockies; also the northeastern United States and the entire northern Canada–US border Great Plains to the Great Lakes. A small population may exist in northern Mexico.

The yellow rail migrates to the southeastern coastal United States.


The yellow rail are very elusive and seldom seen. They generally call at night resembling the sound of two stones being clicked together "tik-tik tik-tik-tik" in repetition. When approached, they are more likely to rely on camouflage and escaping on foot through dense vegetation, rather than flushing.


The nest is a shallow cup built with marsh vegetation on damp ground under a canopy of dead plants. It is made out of woven grasses and leaves.[2]

This rail lays a clutch of five to 10 oval or elongate eggs that usually measure around 29 by 21 millimetres (1.14 by 0.83 in). These eggs are creamy, and spotted with both reddish spots that form a ring at one end, and small black spots that are scattered over the egg. They are incubated by the female for a period of 16 to 18 days. If the first set of eggs are destroyed, the female will generally lay another clutch. After the chicks hatch, the female will either crush the eggshells and hide them from view at the bottom of the nest, or remove the eggshells from the nest, dropping them along the paths leading away from the nest.[2]


The yellow rail feeds primarily on small invertebrates and compliments its diet with plant seeds.[3] Beetles (Coleoptera) account for the highest proportion of the birds' diet, followed by spiders (Araneae) and snails (Gastropods), whereas plant matter is dominated by sedges (Cyperaceae) and rushes (Juncaceae).[3]


Their numbers have declined in recent years due to loss of habitat.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Coturnicops noveboracensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Hauber, Mark E. (1 August 2014). The Book of Eggs: A Life-Size Guide to the Eggs of Six Hundred of the World's Bird Species. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-226-05781-1. 
  3. ^ a b Robert M, Cloutier L, Laporte P. 1997. The summer diet of the Yellow Rail in Southern Québec. Wilson Bulletin 109(4):702-710.

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