Nevada Fish & Wildlife Office
Pacific Southwest Region

Yuma Clapper Rail
(Rallus longirostris yumanensis)

Photo: Yuma clapper rail
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae
Genus: Rallus
Species: longirostris
Subspecies: yumanensis


Weight: 10 oz
Length: 14.5"
Wing Span: 19"

A large-footed marsh bird distinguished from other clapper rails by its paler, duller underparts and grayish edging of dorsal feathers; cheeks and postoculars bluish or ashy gray.  Males are larger than females, but the sexes are alike in plumage.


Official Status:

Listed Endangered in 1967.


Life History:

Pairs are monogamous and both sexes assist in incubation and brood-rearing. The first brood appears in March. Pairs may renest after failure of a previous nest. This rail usually lays 7 to 11 eggs in a cup nest of grasses or sedges. Young can fly in about 9 to 10 weeks.

The Yuma clapper rail eats mostly crayfish, clams, isopods, freshwater shrimp, fish and various insects. Probably probes in mud or sand in or near shallow water or picks items off substrate.


Distribution and Habitat:


The Yuma clapper rail is a marsh bird found in dense cattail or cattail-bulrush marshes along the lower Colorado River in Mexico north to the lower Muddy River and Virgin River in Utah above those rivers’ confluence with Lake Mead. Significant populations are found in the Imperial Valley near and around the Salton Sea in California, and along the lower Gila River and the Gila River near the Phoenix Metropolitan area in central Arizona. In Nevada, this subspecies can be found along the Virgin River and lower Muddy River, along the Colorado River around Lake Mohave, and in the Las Vegas Wash.

Most of the U.S. breeding population is resident. Some birds may winter in Mexico along the coasts of Sonora, Simaloa, and Nayarit. It is thought that this rail was not distributed along the Colorado River until suitable habitat was created through dam construction. Also, habitat was expanded through the creation of the Salton Sea in the early 1900s.

Yuma clapper rails are generally found in freshwater and alkali marshes dominated by stands of emergent vegetation interspersed with areas of open water and drier, upland benches. This subspecies prefers mature marsh stands along margins of shallow ponds with stable water levels. Nest sites selected by this subspecies are near upland areas in shallow sites dominated by mature vegetation, often in the base of a shrub. Yuma clapper rails move into different cover types in winter, showing a preference for denser cover than in summer.

Survey detections for the United States habitats have fluctuated between 467 and 809 individuals over the last 10 years.



  Threats include habitat destruction, primarily due to stream channelization and drying and flooding of marshes, resulting from water flow management on the lower Colorado River. Most U.S. habitat is in national wildlife refuges and state wildlife management areas that are subject to water management practices of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Additional threats include contaminants from agricultural tailwaters and exotic vegetation.

Fun Fact:

  Since this subspecies is so well camouflaged and usually found in dense vegetation, it is most easily recognized by its call, a series of dry kek kek kek notes, accelerating and then slowing.

Actions / Current Information:

Last updated: April 16, 2014