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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

Virginia Rail -- Rallus limicola

RANGE: Breeds locally from southern British Columbia and northwestern Alberta to southern Quebec, New Brunswick, and southwestern Newfoundland south to Baja California, west-central Texas, Kansas, central Ohio, western Virginia, and along the Atlantic Coast to North Carolina; also in central Louisiana and northern Alabama. Winters from southern British Columbia and western Washington south to Baja California; and from central Texas, the Gulf Coast, and coastal North Carolina south locally to Costa Rica; casual in interior North America.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Inhabits freshwater marshes, marshy borders of lakes and streams, and occasionally brackish and salt marshes. Prefers areas with shallow water and abundant emergent vegetation.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Wetlands with sedge and cattail edge.

NEST: Usually constructs nests in cattails or sedges a few inches above shallow water, that are often covered with a loose canopy of vegetation and well attached to surrounding vegetation or on a clump of grass or tussock.

FOOD: Consumes a diet that is about two-thirds insects. Also eats small fishes, frogs, mollusks, crustaceans, leeches, and earthworms. Climbs easily on reeds and in bushes to reach seeds and berries, and also eats grass seeds, duckweeds, wild oats, and rice.

REFERENCES: Berger 1951, DeGraff et al. 1980, Horak 1970, Johnsgard 1975a, Low and Mansell 1983, Walkinshaw 1937, Zimmerman 1977.

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