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CLIPBOARD : BREEDING BIRDS: CLAPPER RAIL (Rallus longirostris levipes)

January 08, 1991

Description: Strong-legged marsh bird with short, rounded wings. Mottled above with white chest and striped below. White eyebrows and chin with a slightly decurved bill. Distinct white patch under short, cocked tail. Length: 15 inches. Habitat: Salt marshes and brackish waters. Diet: Snails, crabs, worms, frogs and seeds. Displays: Male stands with neck stretched upward, bill open and approaches female; courtship feeding. Nest: Concealed basket beneath bush on firm soil (occasionally domed to protect from predators and high tides) made of sticks, vegetation and tide-deposited materials. Eggs: Olive-buff with brown markings. Length: 1.7 inches. Call: Repeated kek-kek-kek-kek or cha-cha-cha . Note: Nicknamed the marsh hen , clapper rails are secretive birds whose call is often the only indication of their presence. Best siting times are dawn or dusk low tides. Some sitings during extremely high tides when rails feed on snails that have moved above the water line of marsh grasses. Breeding bird atlas: To report bird breeding activity in your neighborhood, or to get information on the breeding bird atlas, call Sea and Sage Audubon Society members Sylvia Gallagher, (714) 962-8990, or Nancy Kenyon, (714) 786-3160. Note: Map is divided into 5-kilometer squares so that Audubon Society volunteers can more easily survey areas on a regular basis. Sources: Sea and Sage Audubon Society; "The Birder's Handbook," Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye, Fireside Books (1988); "Field Guide to the Birds of North America," National Geographic Society (1987); "Birds of Southern California: Status and Distribution," Garrett and Dunn, Los Angeles Audubon Society (1981).

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