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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Yellow Rail -- Coturnicops noveboracensis

RANGE: Breeds locally from northwestern Alberta and southern Mackenzie to southern Quebec and New Brunswick south to southern Alberta, North Dakota, southern Wisconsin, southern Ontario, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Winters from coastal North Carolina south to southern Florida, west along the Gulf Coast to central and southeastern Texas; in Mexico; and locally from Oregon south to southern California.

STATUS: Depending on locality, common, rare, or casual.

HABITAT: Highly secretive; spends most of its time beneath dense, rank vegetation. Inhabits shallow, freshwater, grassy, and sedge marshes and wet meadows. In fall and winter, lives in high margins of fresh and saltwater marshes, savannahs, grainfields, hayfields, and among garden crops.


NEST: Prefers to nest in drier portions of marsh, usually where ground is damp but there is no standing water. Conceals nest in dense clumps of marsh grasses, with surrounding vegetation forming canopy over the nest.

FOOD: Eats small snails, insects, seeds of sedges, grasses, and clover leaves (very little has been reported on food habits).

REFERENCES: Anderson 1977, Devitt 1939, Terres 1980, Walkinshaw 1939.

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