Virigina Rail

Bird of the Month: Virginia Rail

By Andrew McCormick

PC: Mick Thompson (Virginia Rail)

PC: Mick Thompson (Virginia Rail)

Scientific Name: Railus Limicola

Length 9 inWingspan 14 in

Weight 2.6 oz (75 g)

AOU Band code VIRA



At 9”, the Virginia Rail is about the size of the King Rail but the coloration of the two birds is almost identical.  It has a rusty breast, strongly barred black-and-white flanks, a streaked olive back, and white undertail coverts.  It is the only small rail in North America with a long bill.  Found mostly in freshwater and brackish marshes, it is also found in salt marshes in winter.  It is a master of concealment and can slip through the thick cover with scarcely a ripple to indicate its movements.  Rails seldom leave the heavy cover and rarely flush, but when they do, the birds make off on fluttery wings with legs dangling, going only a short distance before dropping into the marsh again.  Their distinctive call is a series of kid kid kidick kidick phrases, heard chiefly in breeding season.  They also give a descending series of oink notes.  The best chance to see them locally is in Juanita Bay Park, Mercer Slough or Montlake Fill.