Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)

The Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) belongs to the rail family.

Distribution / Habitat:

The Water Rail can be found in the marshes and reedbeds across Europe and Asia. Northernmost and eastern populations are migratory, but Water Rails are permanent residents in western and southern Europe, with numbers augmented by migrants in winter.

It builds its nests in a dry location in marsh vegetation. The females lay up to a dozen eggs.


Adult water rails are 23-26 cm long, and have mainly brown upperparts and blue-grey underparts, with black barring on the flanks. The body is flattened laterally to allow easier passage through the reeds. They have long toes, a short tail, and a long (3-4.5 cm) slim reddish bill. Legs are yellowish.

Immature birds are similar to adults, but the blue-grey is replaced by buff. The downy chicks are black, as with all rails.


Their diet consists mainly of insects and aquatic animals.

Call / Song:

Water Rails are noisy birds with a rich variety of sounds including a distinctive pig-like squeal.

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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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