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Clapper Rail

ID Info
Silhouette RailsRails
Clapper RailRallus crepitans
  • ORDER: Gruiformes
  • FAMILY: Rallidae

Basic Description

The loud, clattering outbursts of Clapper Rails are a signature sound of saltmarshes and mangroves in eastern North America and the Caribbean. It’s much rarer to catch sight of these large, chestnut-and-gray rails, as these shy birds emerge only briefly onto mudflats and quickly vanish again into the dense marsh grasses. King Rails can be very similar, but are typically more brightly colored and favor freshwater marshes.

More ID Info
image of range map for Clapper Rail
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Rails are famously secretive, so look and listen for them when they're most active: at dawn, dusk, and in the spring. Focus on areas with good sight lines, such as creek channels or where open mudflats meet patches of cordgrass. Move around gently and look for moving vegetation or ripples. Also, check the tides—search upper edges of marsh on high tides; scan newly exposed mudflats at low tides. Listen for their loud “clapper” calls or a series of repeated “kek” notes. King Rails also give “kek” calls, but Clapper Rails usually call faster than King Rails and vary the pacing of their calls more.

Other Names

  • Rascón Crepitante (Spanish)
  • Râle tapageur (French)
  • Cool Facts