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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

Clapper Rail -- Rallus longirostris

RANGE: Resident along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts from Connecticut south to southern Florida and west to southern Texas; locally along the Pacific Coast from central California south to South America; and in the interior of southeastern California and southwestern Arizona at the southern end of the Salton Sea and in the lower Colorado River Valley (northernmost populations tend to be partially migratory).

STATUS: Abundant in the east, local in California. Some western subspecies are listed as endangered.

HABITAT: Primarily inhabits coastal salt marshes, especially tidal marshes bordered by shallow bodies of salt or brackish water. One subspecies inhabits freshwater marshes along the Colorado River.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Dense growths of cordgrass or needlerush, with deep soft soils.

NEST: Builds nest 8 to 12 inches above ground and near water in salt marsh cordgrass, in marsh elder, or other marsh vegetation that is more than 2 feet tall, with a canopy of vegetation. Locates nest so it will not be submerged by high tide.

FOOD: Prefers to feed on mudflats or along muddy shores of creeks at low tide by probing and gleaning. Eats fiddler crabs, other small crabs, crustaceans, snails, shellfish, aquatic insects, and some seeds.

REFERENCES: Adams and Quay 1958, DeGraff et al. 1980, Johnsgard 1975a, Kozicky and Schmidt 1949, Mangold 1977, Stone 1937.

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