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Birds of the St. Croix River Valley: Minnesota and Wisconsin

FAMILY RALLIDAE

Rails, Gallinules, and Coots


King Rail -- Virginia Rail -- Sora -- Yellow Rail -- Common Gallinule -- American Coot

King Rail (Rallus elegans)

Status: Casual spring migrant and nesting species.

Migration: Rare spring migrant near the St. Croix River. Spring arrival dates range from 24 April 1977 in St. Croix County to 9 May 1958 in Burnett County. Fall migration records are not available.

Nesting Season Distribution: Observations at Crex Meadows, Burnett County, include 12 June 1969, 25 June 1975, 27 and 28 June 1956, 3 July 1963, and 12 August 1970. These breeding season records suggest possible nesting although nests or young have not been found. In St. Croix County, I observed a male king rail at East Twin Lake on 17 June 1976. Green and Janssen's (1975) Washington County record is the only confirmed nesting observation in the Valley.

Habitat: King rails at Crex Meadows are usually associated with dense cattail vegetation in man-made impoundments.


Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola)

Status: Regular migrant and nesting species, one winter record.

Migration: Common migrant in St. Croix, Polk, and Washington counties, uncommon to rare elsewhere. Spring migrants arrive about 25 April (earliest-16 April 1958, Burnett County): peak abundance is 10-15 May. Peak fall migration occurs between 20 September and 1 October and departure by 30 October.

Nesting Season Distribution: Fairly common nesting species in prairie wetlands of St. Croix, Polk, and Washington counties. Uncommon to rare nesting species elsewhere in the Valley. One nest record was reported for Pine County in 1969 (Russell 1969).

Winter: One individual was observed on 30 December 1978 in Washington County (Suburban St. Paul CBC).

Habitat: Virginia rails use a variety of wetland classes for nesting. Greatest densities occur in seasonally and semipermanently flooded wetlands with cattail, river bulrush, and phragmites the predominant vegetation. Nesting Virginia rails are occasionally found in Northern Sedge Meadow habitats, along well-vegetated streams and in Shrub Carr wetlands.


Sora (Porzana carolina)

Status: Regular migrant and nesting species.

Migration: Common migrant in prairie wetlands of St. Croix, Polk, and Washington counties and at Crex Meadows in Burnett County. Fairly common to uncommon elsewhere. Spring migrants arrive about 25 April (earliest-6 April 1964, Burnett County), reaching peak abundance 15-20 May. Peak abundance during fall migration occurs 10 September to 10 October and departure by 5 November.

Nesting Season Distribution: Common nesting species in prairie wetlands in the Western Upland and Central Plain, and at Crex Meadows. Uncommon elsewhere.

Habitat: Soras use a variety of wetland types for nesting. Highest densities occur in seasonally and semipermanently flooded wetlands where cattail, river bulrush, and softstem bulrush are the predominant vegetation types. Soras also use wetlands that are more acidic, containing various species of waterlilies and pickerelweed. During high water periods, nesting soras also use sedge meadows.


Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis)

Status: Casual migrant and summer resident.

Migration: S. D. Robbins observed this species twice in central St. Croix County: 26 April 1961 and 17 May 1963. At Crex Meadows, Burnett County, apparent migrants were observed on 25 May 1976, 30 May 1977, and 28 May 1978. R. Hoffman observed one at the Fish Lake Wildlife Area, Burnett County, on 26 May 1979.

Nesting Season Distribution: The first record of the yellow rail in the Valley was obtained on 23 June 1962, when N. R. Stone observed a single bird at Crex Meadows (Robbins 1963). During the summers of 1976 and 1977, yellow rails were again heard calling in a large Northern Sedge Meadow at Crex Meadows. Although these birds were observed during normal nesting periods, neither nests nor young were observed. Continued observations at Crex Meadows may shed additional light on the breeding status of this species.


Common Gallinule (Gallinula chloropus)

Status: Casual migrant and nesting species.

Spring Records: Gallinules were observed at Crex Meadows, Burnett County, on 9 May 1958 and 10 May 1976. In St. Croix County spring records include 16 May 1961 and 25 May 1976. Washington County records range from 15- 30 May.

Nesting Season Distribution: Green and Janssen (1975) showed a nesting record for Washington County. Since 1975, I have found common gallinule during the nesting season near Lake Elmo, Washington County. In Wisconsin, one bird was observed at Crex Meadows on 11 June 1958. The first St. Croix County nesting record was obtained on 9 July 1976 near Star Prairie. On 14 July 1977 an adult with a brood of three was observed on a wetland near Hudson. Additionally, a single adult was observed near Roberts on 11 August 1975.

Habitat: Most common gallinules observed during the nesting season are associated with seasonally and semipermanently flooded wetlands. These wetlands typically support an abundant submerged and emergent flora.


American Coot (Fulica americana)

Status: Regular migrant and nesting species, casual in winter.

Migration: Abundant migrant throughout the Valley. Spring migrants arrive in the Western Upland about 10 March reaching the Northern Highland 1-10 April. Peak spring abundance occurs between 20 April and 1 May. The first fall migrants arrive between 1 and 10 September. Peak fall abundance occurs 25 September to 10 October and departure by 15 November.

Nesting Season Distribution: Common nesting species on prairie wetlands in St. Croix, Polk, and Washington counties. Fairly common nesting species at Crex Meadows in Burnett County. Uncommon to rare elsewhere during the nesting season.

Winter: Casual early winter resident along the St. Croix River. Afton CBC records include one each on 1 January 1957, 1971, 1972, 1974, and 1975. I observed one along the Apple River, St. Croix County, on 19 December 1977. During the winter of 1975-76, a single bird remained on the St. Croix River near Bayport, Washington County.

Habitat: American coots are characteristic of seasonally and semipermanently flooded wetlands. Predominant vegetation associated with American coot nesting habitat includes cattail, river bulrush, softstem and hardstem bulrush, burreed, and phragmites. Nesting also occurs to a more limited extent on lower quality acidic wetlands characterized by waterlily and pickerelweed. Very few nesting pairs are found on riverine habitats.


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