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Yellow Rail

Silhouette RailsRails
Yellow RailCoturnicops noveboracensis
  • ORDER: Gruiformes
  • FAMILY: Rallidae

Basic Description

A tiny marsh bird that lives its life concealed by grassy vegetation, the Yellow Rail is one of the hardest birds to see in North America. Perfectly camouflaged in complex patterns of black, brown, yellow, and white, Yellow Rails run as quickly as rodents through dense marsh vegetation. They rarely take flight, but when they do they reveal white patches in the wing. On spring nights, males sing an easy-to-miss, insectlike series of clicks. Yellow Rails are on the Yellow Watch List for species with restricted ranges.

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

Yellow Rails are hard to see, so begin by trying to hear one. In spring, listen at night in wet meadows and marshes with less than 2–3 inches of water. Mimicking the song by tapping two rocks (or quarters) together with the correct “Morse code” rhythm can sometimes induce a male to call back. In Louisiana, some rice farmers hold “rail festivals” in late autumn as they harvest their fields. Some bird clubs also offer field trips at night, especially on the nesting grounds.

Other Names

  • Polluela Amarillenta (Spanish)
  • Râle jaune (French)
  • Cool Facts