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Virginia rail

Rallus limicola

Photo by Danny Bonilla (Pine Barrens Animals)

Common name:
Virginia rail (en); frango d’água-da-Virginia (pt); râle de Virginie (fr); rascón de Virginia (es); Virginiaralle (de)

Order Gruiformes
Family Rallidae

These birds breed across the northern and western United States, as well as in southern Canada. Most population migrate south to winter in Florida, northern Mexico and along the Gulf coast of the United States.

The Virginia rail is 20-27 cm long and has a wingspan of 32-38 cm. They weigh 65-95 g.

They are mostly found in freshwater marshes with dense emergent vegetation, but also in brackish marshes and coastal saltmarshes. They occur from sea level up to an altitude of 3.700 m.

Virginia rails feed on small aquatic invertebrates, such as beetles, spiders, snails, earthworms and bugs, and also small fishes frogs, small snakes, aquatic plants and seeds.

These birds breed in May-August. The nest is a platform or basket of loosely woven reeds and grasses, placed over water or on a clump of vegetation. There the female lays 4-13 white or buff eggs with grey or brown spots. The eggs are incubated by both parents for 18-20 days. The chicks leave the nest within a few hours of hatching and are able to swim and drink, but the parents feed them until fledging, 25 days after hatching. Each pair may raise up to 2 broods per year.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range. The overall population trend is increasing, although some populations have unknown trends. Overall, the species has undergone a large increase of 17 % per decade over the last 4 decades.

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