Family Rallidae

     Rails, gallinules, and coots are small and medium-sized birds.  Rails are secretive birds which are rarely seen as they wade through wetlands while coots are more social and can group in open water.  The wings and tails of these birds are short.  Bill length varies among the birds in this family; the bills of rails are long and thin while the bills of coots are short and blunt.  These birds can produce large numbers of young in a year with as many as 18 eggs laid in a nest and as many as three broods a year (most species seem to attempt two broods per year).  Males assist in both brooding over the eggs and feeding the young.  They often use their vocalizations to establish their territories.   While most members of this group are drab in their coloration, the purple gallinule is quite colorful.


     Rails are secretive birds of marshes and other wet regions.  They are more often heard than seen.   Rails have thin bodies (the origin of the phrase “thin as a rail”) which allow them to move easily through marsh plants.  Most rails are active at night.  The following pictures are of a South American rail.

Virginia rails feed on fish, aquatic invertebrates, and plants.  They are secretive birds which inhabit marshes. VIRGINIA RAIL

Sora rails feed on aquatic invertebrates and plants.


Common moorhens feed on aquatic plants and invertebrates.  Two weeks can separate the hatching of the first and last eggs which were laid in a season.  Two female birds may share a nest and a male mate.