Wild Birds

Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail


The Virginia Rail, Rallus limicola, is a small waterbird, of the family Rallidae.



Adults are mainly brown, darker on the back and crown, with orange-brown legs. They have long toes, a short tail and a long slim reddish bill. Their cheeks are grey, with a light stripe over the eye and a whitish throat.

Virginia Rail in the Seashore
Virginia Rail in the Seashore

Distribution / Habitat:

Their breeding habitat is marshes from Nova Scotia to California and North Carolina, also in Central America and South America. The female lays 5 to 13 eggs in a platform built from cattails and other plants in a dry location in the marsh. Both parents care for the young, who are able to fly in less than a month.

Northern populations migrate to the southern United States and Central America. On the Pacific coast, some are permanent residents.


Diet / Feeding:

These birds probe with their bill in mud or shallow water, also picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects and aquatic animals.


Call / Song:

The Virginia Rail bird have a number of calls, including a harsh kuk kuk kuk, usually heard at night.

Virginia Rail Looking for Food
Virginia Rail Looking for Food


These birds remain fairly common despite continuing loss of habitat, but are secretive by nature and more often heard than seen.


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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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