Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis)

Yellow Rail

[order] GRUIFORMES | [family] Rallidae | [latin] Coturnicops noveboracensis | [UK] Yellow Rail | [FR] Rale jaune | [DE] Gelbralle | [ES] Polluela Amarillenta | [NL] Gele Ral


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Coturnicops noveboracensis NA e,c
Coturnicops noveboracensis goldmani c Mexico
Coturnicops noveboracensis noveboracensis Canada, n USA s USA

Physical charateristics

Note the white wing patch (in flight). A small, buffy rail, suggesting a week-old chick. Bill very short, greenish. Back dark, striped and checkered with buff and black. Mouselike; difficult to see or flush.

Listen to the sound of Yellow Rail

[audio: Rail.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 28 cm wingspan max.: 33 cm
size min.: 13 cm size max.: 18 cm
incubation min.: 16 days incubation max.: 18 days
fledging min.: 33 days fledging max.: 36 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 7  
      eggs max.: 10  


North America : East,c


Grassy marshes, meadows. In summer, favors large wet meadows or shallow marshes dominated by sedges and grasses. Typically in fresh or brackish marsh with water no more than a foot deep. In winter mostly in coastal salt marsh, especially drier areas with dense stands of spartina
; also rice fields, damp meadows near coast.


Male defends territory by calling, mostly at night. In courtship, male and female may preen each other’s feathers.
Nest: Site is in shallow part of marsh, on d
amp soil or over water less than 6″ deep. Nest is shallow cup of sedges and grasses, with concealing canopy of dead plants above it. May build more than one nest. Male takes part in starting nests, but female completes them.
Eggs: Usually 8-10. Buffy white, with reddish brown spots. Incubation is apparently by female only, about 17-18 days.
Young: Apparently fed by female only. Remain in nest about 2 days, then follow female about in marsh. When not foraging, female and brood go to second nest (not the one
in which the eggs hatched). Young find much of their own food after 2 weeks, all of it after 3 weeks; probably able to fly at about 5 weeks.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects, snails, seeds. Diet not well known, but small freshwater snails are reported to
be important at some seasons. Eats a wide variety of insects (especially aquatic ones), also spiders, small crustaceans, probably earthworms. Also eats many seeds, at least in fall and winter.
Behavior: Foraging habits of wild birds essentially unknown. Yellow Rails in captivity feed only by day, picking food from ground, plants, or water.


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). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, 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.
Yellow Rail status Least Concern


Mainly Canada, northern United States east of Rockies. Winters southeastern United States. Breeds very locally within dash line. bMigration: M
igrates at night. Very rarely detected in migration, but individuals are sometimes found when they stop over in city parks or other spots with little cover. Migrates south mostly in September and October, north mostly in April and early May.

Distribution map

Yellow Rail distribution range map

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