The Virginia Rail is a secretive bird, a relative of coots and cranes. And it's a bird you'll more often hear than spy. The rail takes its name from its narrow body - "as skinny as a rail" - an adaptation to its favorite marshy habitats. A Virginia Rail walks hidden, squeezing through dense reeds and grasses. The call of a male Yellow Rail sounds like someone tapping two small stones together. You can count yourself lucky if you have actually seen a Virginia Rail. Learn more about this elusive bird at Cornell's All About Birds.
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Stalking the Elusive Virginia Rail
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote!
[Wetland morning with Virginia Rail “kiddick, kiddick” + oinking phrases]
Today, we're standing on a boardwalk overlooking a marsh. These “clicks” and “oinks” tells us a Virginia Rail is close by. [“Kiddick, kiddick” notes]
But rails are rarely seen. The Virginia Rail is a secretive bird, a relative of coots and cranes. It’s a bird you’ll more often hear than spy. It’s named for its narrow body – “as skinny as a rail” – an adaptation to its favorite marshy habitats. It walks here hidden, squeezing its slender body through the dense reeds and grasses. [Oinking phrases]
We’re going to have to watch carefully. Check out that opening in the marsh grass over there – we might see the rail pass through it, to the next patch of dense reeds. The sounds seem to be coming this way.
[Even louder oinking]
There it is, out in the open, however briefly! Amazing! It looks like a tiny heron. It’s not much bigger than a robin. This rail is bright orangey-brown overall with gray cheeks and a long red bill.
We’re lucky to have seen a Virginia Rail. [Pause] It may be a long time before we see another. But we’ll not soon forget that distinctive voice.
If you missed seeing this one, catch it on our Facebook page. For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein. [Oinking phrases]
Wetland-pond-forested-morning ambient Nature Essentials SFX #97 recorded by Gordon Hempton of Quietplanet.com
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of the Virginia Rail recorded by R.S. Little and W.L. Hershberger.
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org June 2014 Narrator: Michael Stein