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Clapper Rail - BirdForum Opus

Revision as of 17:08, 13 June 2023 by Jmorlan (talk | contribs) (→‎External Links: Attempted to remove California records.)
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Photo by BlueRaven
Corpus Christi, Texas, January 2009
Rallus crepitans


  • 36 cm in length, male average 20% larger than female
  • Upperside in many forms grayish-brown to dark brown in others. Feathers on the back have darker centers.
  • Breast varies from bright chestnut to cinnamon to dusky gray to quite dark grey or even vinacious brown. Many subspecies have a dusky band across upper breast.
  • Flanks in most subspecies are contrasting white bars with dusky or even black bars
  • Noticeable white patch under tail in most subspecies, but undertail coverts barred with either black or grey in several others
  • Bill is strong and long and curves slightly downwards

In especially the northern populations have been described some very dark individuals, either as result of different morphs, individual variation, or hybridization with King Rail.


It is found along the east coast of North America and the coasts and some islands of the Caribbean.


Formerly considered conspecific with Mangrove Rail (R. longirostris) and Ridgway's Rail (R. obsoletus).


There are 11 subspecies1:

  • R. c. crepitans - Atlantic coast (Connecticut to north-eastern North Carolina)
  • R. c. waynei - Coastal Atlantic salt marshes (south-eastern North Carolina to eastern Florida)
  • R. c. saturatus - Gulf Coast (south-western Alabama to Texas and Tamaulipas)
  • R. c. scotti - Coastal Florida (Pensacola to Cape Sable and Jupiter)
  • R. c. insularum - Mangrove swamps of Florida Keys
  • R. c. coryi - Mangrove swamps of Bahamas
  • R. c. pallidus - Mangroves of south-eastern Mexico (coastal northern Yucatán Peninsula)
  • R. c. grossi - South-eastern Mexico (islands on Chinchorro Bank off Quintana Roo)
  • R. c. belizensis - Belize (Ycacos Lagoon)
  • R. c. leucophaeus - Isle of Youth (Cuba)
  • R. c. caribaeus - Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico to Antigua and northern Antilles


Grassy marshes and mangroves. When overlapping in range with King Rail (Gulf and Atlantic coasts), Clapper Rail normally are found in salt environs while King Rail is limited to freshwater ponds.


This bird is rarely seen flying, which is reflected in the many subspecies found across its range. However, the north east populations in the US are migratory, wintering more southerly along the Atlantic coast.


These birds eat crustaceans, aquatic insects and small fish. They search for food while walking, sometimes probing with their long bills, in shallow water or mud.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9., with updates to August 2014. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2014. IOC World Bird Names (version 4.4). Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/.
  3. Birdforum thread discussing the taxonomy of Clapper Rail

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