Yellow Rail, 7 1/4"
Drawing by Patsy Renz

Small, chicken-like bird, with buffy back stripes and wide dark back stripes with fine white crossbars. Very short tail, short thick beak yellowish to greenish gray. Crown is dark. Yellow-buff on breast and face. Wide dark streak through eye. Eye dark.

Breeds in grassy marshes, boggy swales, and damp fields. Not found in deep water marshes or swamps. Secretive. Rarely flushes. Flies feebly a short distance just over vegetation. Large white wing patches on trailing edge of wings noticeable in flight. Feeds in shallow water on snails, insects and some seeds and grasses. Will climb stems in search of insects and snails. When climbing, will jerk tail up. Nests a few inches above water on surrounding stems or ground. Breeds in Canada, North Dakota, northern Minnesota and Michigan. Winters along southeastern and gulf coasts.

Male territorial call is made at end of day and during night, most often at beginning and middle of breeding cycle. Typical call is a four or five note tic alternating rhythmically in twos and threes. Sounds like tapping two pebbles together. Other sounds are: descending cackle of about ten notes with 3 or 4 that sound like a distant knocking on a door, a soft wheezing or clucking, a quiet croaking.

NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center
Home | Livestock Research | Economics Research | Range Research | 2001 Annual Report