American Game Birds

Illustrating More Than One Hundred Species In Natural Colors

By Chester A. Reed

Page 26

KING RAIL (Rallus elegans). These are the largest of the true rails, measuring about 1 8 in. in length. They are much brighter colored both above and below than the similar sized Clapper Rails. They inhabit almost exclusively fresh-water marshes in eastern North America, breeding throughout the eastern states and wintering in the southern ones. Their form is typical of that of the rail family: long bill, long legs and short tail, the latter often carried erect over the back. They are very sly and secretive in all their habits, keeping well under cover of rushes or marsh grass, and doing most of their feeding after dark. It is very difficult to flush them, particularly without a dog. Their flight is very weak and fluttering; they fly but a few yards before dropping into the protecting grass again. On the ground, however, they are very active and quite graceful, running swiftly and threading their way with ease through the densest of weeds, rushes or brush. At night the marshes often resound with their loud, explosive, grunting calls.

     Their food consists of aquatic insects, seeds, roots and grasses, which impart a delicate flavor to their flesh and puts them in the game-bird class, although the sport of shooting them is confined largely to one's ability to make them fly, for once awing they are so easy a mark that even a novice can seldom miss one.


CLAPPER RAILS (Rallus crepitans crepitans), of the same size but paler colored than the last species, are confined almost wholly to salt or brackish marshes near the coast, breeding north to Massachusetts and wintering on the South Atlantic coast. Several local varieties are recognized: the Louisiana Clapper Rail on the coast of that state, the Florida Clapper Rail on the Gulf coast of Florida and the Wayne Clapper Rail on the coast from North Carolina to Florida. These differ but slightly in coloring or dimensions.


CALIFORNIA CLAPPER RAIL (Rallus obsoletus), found in salt marshes of the Pacific coast near San Francisco, is marked like the Clapper Rail above and is as brightly colored as the King Rail below.