Virginia Rail - Rallus limicola
The Virginia rail is rarely seen. Its compact, narrow body is built for living in dense plant cover. The Virginia rail's body is shaped like a chicken and has a short tail and strong legs. It is reddish in color with gray cheeks and a long, curved red bill. Males and females look very similar.
The Virginia rail has a very large range. It lives throughout the northern and western United States and throughout southern Canada. In the winter, the Virginia rail occupies Mexico, all of Florida and the gulf coast of the United States.
Freshwater marshes and wetlands are the preferred habitats of the Virginia rail. It will sometimes inhabit salt marshes. The most important features of its habitat are shallow water, heavy plant cover and abundant food.
The Virginia rail probes standing water, moist soil and mudflats with its long bill to find food. It consumes small aquatic invertebrates such as beetles, spiders and snails. It also eats fish, frogs and small snakes. In the winter when food is less available, the Virginia rail eats aquatic plants and seeds.
Nests are built in May. Male and females build their nest together in a marsh with abundant plant cover. Above their nest, they build a canopy by weaving surrounding tall plants for added protection. The Virginia rail often builds several dummy nests in its territory.
The Virginia rail has very strong legs and weak wings. With its strong legs, it can walk and run on floating marsh plants. It only flies during migration.
Audio Credit: xeno-canto.orgDaniel Lane