Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris)

Clapper Rail

[order] Gruiformes | [family] Rallidae | [latin] Rallus longirostris | [UK] Clapper Rail | [FR] Rale gris | [DE] Klapperralle | [ES] Rascon Piquilargo | [IT] Porciglione americano | [NL] Klapperral


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Rallus longirostris NA, LA widespread
Rallus longirostris beldingi s Baja California (Mexico)
Rallus longirostris belizensis Ycacos Lagoon (Belize)
Rallus longirostris caribaeus Cuba to Puerto Rico, Lesser Antilles to Antigua and Guadeloupe
Rallus longirostris coryi Bahama Is.
Rallus longirostris crassirostris coast of Brazil
Rallus longirostris crepitans coastal Connecticut to ne North Carolina (USA)
Rallus longirostris cypereti coastal sw Colombia to nw Peru
Rallus longirostris grossi islands off Quintana Roo (se Mexico)
Rallus longirostris insularum Florida Keys (USA)
Rallus longirostris leucophaeus Isle of Pines (Cuba)
Rallus longirostris levipes sw California (USA) to n Baja California (Mexico)
Rallus longirostris longirostris coast of the Guianas
Rallus longirostris margaritae Margarita I. (Venezuela)
Rallus longirostris obsoletus wc California (USA)
Rallus longirostris pallidus n Yucatán Pen. (Mexico)
Rallus longirostris pelodramus coastal se USA
Rallus longirostris phelpsi ne Colombia, nw Venezuela
Rallus longirostris saturatus coastal se North Carolina to e Florida (USA)
Rallus longirostris scottii coastal Florida (USA)
Rallus longirostris waynei Trinidad
Rallus longirostris yumanensis se California and s Arizona (USA), nw Mexico

Physical charateristics

Plumage variable but mostly mottled brown with reddish chest; back feathers are bordered with grey; flanks (sides) are barred with black and white. Other things to look for: Short tail; long bill. This bird is more often heard than seen, and at dusk and dawn its distinctive call sounds like someone clapping.

Listen to the sound of Clapper Rail

[audio: Rail.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 60 cm wingspan max.: 65 cm
size min.: 37 cm size max.: 39 cm
incubation min.: 20 days incubation max.: 23 days
fledging min.: 35 days fledging max.: 42 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 7  
      eggs max.: 11  


Breeds along coast from Massachusetts southward to Florida, and around the Gulf Coast to Mexico. Also Pacific Coast from central California southward to southern Mexico and up the Colorada River. Also in Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and both coasts of South America. In Suriname confined to the coastal salt-marshes, but in recent years rapidly declining.


Saltmarshes and mangrove swamps


The breeding season begins in mid-March, peaks from May until mid-June, and extends to mid-October. Breeding habitat is most commonly either fresh or salt water marshes, but also includes mangrove swamps. The nest is built on the ground hidden in growing vegetation. Both adults build the platform-style nest out of plant materials and also commonly build a dome over the nest with surrounding vegetation. The female lays 5-12 (usually 7-11) eggs that both adults incubate for 20-23 days. The young are precocial and are cared for by both adults. The young leave the nest soon after hatching and become independent of the parents after about 35-42 days, although they usually are unable to fly until 20-25 days later than that.

Feeding habits

The diet of this species includes crustaceans, aquatic invertebrates, fish, insects, frogs, and some seeds. Most food is found by searching near the water’s edge and in the marsh


This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 580,000 km2. The global population size has not been quantified, but it is believed to be large as the species is described as ‘frequent’ in at least parts of its range (Stotz et al. 1996). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Clapper Rail status Least Concern


In North America primarily resident, but northernmost populations partially migratory and some evidence from ringing and observation that birds in SE make movements appear to be overland as well as coastal. In north Carolina, in autumn large numbers have been forced down by heavy fog, and have been found dead under telephone wires. South American populations sedentary.

Distribution map

Clapper Rail range map


Title Winter Distribution of Subspecies of Clapper Rails (Rallus longirostris) in Florida with Evidence for Long-distance and Overland Movements
Author(s): ROBERT L . CRAWFORD eat al.
Abstract: Little is known of the extent of movement and wint..[more]..
Source: The Auk, Vol.100(1), pp. 198-200

download full text (pdf)


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