Clapper Rail

Rallus crepitans

Closeup image of a Clapper Rail.
Image by Alan Schmierer on Flickr, public domain

Physical: Clapper rails are dull brown or cinnamon-brown birds with grey cheeks, white stripes on their body, and slim orange beaks. Adults grow to 32–41 cm. Juveniles are duller, more grey in color. They’re named for their distinctive clattering call.

Habitat: Clapper rails live in saltwater marshes. Their range spans from Massachusetts down to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, though they only migrate to the northern regions (Massachusetts to North Carolina) to breed.

Feeding: Clapper rails forage by wading through shallow water or mud at low tide. They feed on crustaceans (crabs, crayfish), insects, fish, molluscs, worms, and frogs.

Breeding: When the clapper rails arrive in the Barnegat Bay in April, they begin forming pairs soon after. Males approach females with their mating display, pointing their bills down, swinging from side to side, stretching their necks out and opening their bill. Pairs build nests in marsh vegetation near the high tide line, with a ramp up and woven canopy. They lay 7-11 eggs, which incubate for 20-23 days.

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