California Clapper Rail, Mike Boyland USFWS
For kids from fourth grade up.
California Ridgway's Rail
Formerly California Clapper Rail
Endangered. This means that the species is in danger of dying out.
We are working hard to prevent this.
The California Ridgway's Rail is one of the largest rails.
It is 32-47 cm from the tip of its bill to the tip of its tail. (13-19 inches) It looks like
chicken with a long, slightly downward-curving bill. Its upper parts are olive-brown. Its
breast is cinnamon-buff colored.
Clapper rails are secretive. They are hard to see in dense vegetation.
(See photos right) Once flushed, they can frequently be approached.
When evading discovery, clapper rails typically freeze, hide in small sloughs
or under overhangs. They may run rapidly through vegetation or along slough bottoms.
Clapper rails prefer to walk or run rather than fly or swim.
When flushed, they normally fly only a short distance before landing. They can swim well.
But they only swim to cross sloughs or escape threats at high tide.
Clapper rails are most active in early morning and late evening.
They forage in marsh vegetation in and along creeks and mudflat edges. They often roost
at high tide during the day.
Mostly things like mussels, crabs and clams.
Salty and brackish water marshes with pickleweed and cordgrass.
The marshes of San Francisco estuary. In south San Francisco Bay,
there are populations in all of the larger tidal marshes. Distribution in the North Bay is patchy.
Small populations are widely distributed in the San Pablo Bay and Suisun Marsh.
The breeding season begins by February. Nesting starts in
mid-March and extends into August. Clutch sizes range from 5 to 14 eggs. Both parents share
in incubation and rearing.
The places where the rails can live have become more broken up.
This makes it easier for predators like the non-native red fox and feral cats to catch rails.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP BIRDS
There are many things you can do to protect birds. Visit our national pages on migratory bird conservation. See What You Can Do to Help Wildlife and Plants (PDF) for more ideas.
Keep your cat inside. Cats kill millions of birds per year. Even well-fed cats kill birds. It is just their nature to hunt. Living indoors is also much safer for the cats themselves.
When you go to the beach, pay attention to signs warning you that birds are nesting. Many shore birds nest right on the beach. They are easily disturbed. Don't let your dog chase or bark at them.
Words to Learn
Scientists who study birds are called ornithologists.
Ornithologists call the species Rallus obsoletus obsoletus. Scientific names are in Latin or Greek. (Note that we listed the rail as California Clapper Rail, Rallus longirostris obsoletus but ornithologists recently reclasified and renamed it.)
Rails are in the Rallidae (rail) family.
The common names of bird species are capitalized. So we write California Ridgway's Rail. But if you are writing about rails in general, you should use lower case.
See a basic bird diagram (483 KB PDF).