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Yellow Rail - BirdForum Opus

Photo by atricapillus
South-east Oklahoma, USA, November 2010
Coturnicops noveboracensis


16–19 cm (6-7½)
A secretive and small rail with a conical bill.

The buffy stripes on the back and the dark and yellow pattern on the face distinguish this species from the juvenile Sora. Also note white secondaries on flushed bird.


Disjunct and local in marshes of Canada, northern U.S.; central Mexico


Photo by jthoppes
Arrowhead Marsh, Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, Oakland, California, USA, January 2008


There are 2 subspecies[1]:

  • C. n. noveboracensis:
  • Breeds in Canada and northern US; winters to Atlantic and Gulf coasts of U.S.
  • C. n. goldmani:
  • Locally in Río Lerma (central Mexico)

Status of goldmani

Last recorded in 1964. In Mexico there's been much habitat destruction due to marsh drainage; however, unexplored, inaccessible marshes could allow a small population of this skulking subspecies to remain unnoticed indefinitely.


Marshes, usually those with heavy grass cover. On the Gulf coast of the southern United States often winters in rice fields.


Very secretive, most easily registered by sounds given at night.


Their diet consists of small freshwater snails, beetles, a variety of other small insects and earthworms.


The call is likened to the noise made by tapping together two small stones.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2015. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2015, with updates to August 2015. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved November 2014)

Recommended Citation

External Links