King Rail (Rallus elegans)

King Rail

[order] GRUIFORMES | [family] Rallidae | [latin] Rallus elegans | [UK] King Rail | [FR] Rascon real | [DE] Konigs-Wasserlaufer | [ES] Rascon Elegante | [NL]


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Rallus elegans NA, MA e, c
Rallus elegans elegans e Canada, ne USA
Rallus elegans ramsdeni Cuba and the Isle of Pines
Rallus elegans tenuirostris c Mexico

Physical charateristics

A large, rusty rail with a long slender bill; twice the size of a Virginia Rail, or about that of a small hen. Similar to Clapper Rail but more rusty; prefers fresh marshes.

Listen to the sound of King Rail

[audio: Rail.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 46 cm wingspan max.: 54 cm
size min.: 38 cm size max.: 48 cm
incubation min.: 21 days incubation max.: 24 days
fledging min.: 58 days fledging max.: 67 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 6  
      eggs max.: 14  


North America, Middle America : East, Central


Fresh and brackish marshes, rice fields, swamps. Sometimes salt marshes in winter.
Will use a variety of habitats with shallow fresh or brackish water and dense cover. Important plants include cattails, bulrushes, spartina, and others. May be in brushy swamps with many willows, or in flooded rice fields.


In courtship, male walks about with tail raised, showing off white under tail coverts. Male may feed female.
Nest: Site is in a clump of grass
or sedges, usually about a foot above water or land. Nest (apparently built mostly by male) is a solid platform of grass, sedges, other marsh plants, with a canopy woven over the top and a ramp leading down from the entrance. Additional simpler nest platf
orms may be built nearby.
Eggs: Usually 10-12, sometimes 6-14. Pale buff, lightly spotted with brown. Incubation is by both sexes, 21-23 days.
Young: Downy young leave the nest a few hours after hatching. Both parents feed young. While young are small, adults may brood them at simple nest platforms near where they hatched. Young are able to make short flights at about 9-
10 weeks. May have two broods per year in south.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects and crustaceans. Diet includes many aquatic ins
ects, especially beetles. Eats many crayfish and crabs, and sometimes many small fish. Also eats snails, clams, grasshoppers, frogs, spiders, and seeds of aquatic plants.
Behavior: Mostly forages in shallow water, in or close to dense marsh cover. Large items (such as big crayfish or crabs) may be carried to solid ground and dismembered before being eaten.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
King Rail status Least Concern


Eastern United States, to Cuba, Mexico (rarely). Migrant in north. Migration: Withdraws from most of northern and inland part of range in winter. Apparently migrates at night.

Distribution map

King Rail distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *