Fun Rail Bird Facts For Kids

Rhea Nischal
Oct 20, 2022 By Rhea Nischal
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Isobel Murphy
Fact-checked by Gowri Rao
Discover fascinating rail bird facts about its range habitat, calls, conservation, breeding, and more

The magnificent birds of the Rallidae family are known as rails. The Rallidae family comprises 40 unique species of small birds. It includes different varieties of birds like coots, gallinules, crakes, and bush-hens.

They belong to the order Gruiformes and the class Aves. Most species of rail birds are similar in size and shape, but they also have minor distinctions. Some of the species possess a long bill while some possess a short one.

The majority of rail species have a stout body, long legs, and an earthy plumage. Their plumage's color can range from earthy tones like brown, tan, and black to iridescent shades of blue and green.

They range between 0.04-6.6 lb (20-3,000 g) in weight and between 4-18 in (11-45 cm) in length. They're all quite small and nearly flightless birds. Some species have a sustained flight that can be seen during migration.

Rails have been observed to forage during the day and feed upon invertebrates like snails, isopods, dragonflies, bugs, and ants, as well as berries and seeds. Rails have a narrow body which helps them to easily move through the dense vegetation (like marshes) that they dwell in.

They nest in thick vegetation, where their young leave the nest after hatching.

These species are threatened by introduced species like cats and goats as well as from a loss of habitat. Keep reading to discover exciting facts about their habitat, calls, breeding, migration, and more!

If you enjoyed reading our rail bird fun facts, you must check out our cool Guam rail facts and clapper rail facts too!

Rail Bird Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a rail bird?

The rail bird is a bird that is a member of the family Rallidae. They're also commonly referred to as rails. They have a wide range and occur in every continent except Antarctica. They're all quite small and range between 4-18 in (11-45 cm) in length.

What class of animal does a rail bird belong to?

Rails belong to the family Rallidae, order Gruiformes, and the class Aves.

How many rail birds are there in the world?

The exact population of the Rallidae family has not been evaluated yet. Many species of this family became extinct a while ago and more have sadly become extinct recently. Some larger rails became extinct during World War II, when they were hunted for human consumption. Many species face extinction due to their inability to deal with introduced species.

Where does a rail bird live?

The preferred habitat of rails varies from species to species. They inhabit marshes and wetlands mainly and most of them dwell in semi-aquatic areas. They've been observed inhabiting and foraging in swamps, wetlands, estuaries, ponds, lakes, wetlands, and other related habitats. Many species also prefer to inhabit dry and high areas.

They've also been seen in grasslands, subtropical forests. savannas, and rainforests. They can be seen in the streets of cities during migration.

What is a rail bird's habitat?

Rail birds are typically seen on the ground and are tough to spot. These secretive birds can also be nocturnal.

The body of a rail bird is quite narrow which aids them in moving through dense vegetation, like the marshes they dwell in. Most species, like the Virginia rail, prefer to stay concealed in dense vegetation.

The only way to spot such species is by the loud calls they make. Rails are quite active and are energetic at dusk and dawn.

They can be seen in open mudflats near dense bulrushes and cattail patches. These birds also often feed in open areas that have a cover close to them. They stay away from high tides in a marsh if it's coastal, when they can instead be spotted at the edge of the marsh.

They feed in exposed mudflats during the day when there are low tides. The breeding pair lives in a nest, the construction of which usually takes a week.

In the nests of many rails, a canopy has been observed on top. They nest in well separated and hidden areas.

Who do rail birds live with?

Rail birds can be found living alone, in family groups, or in pairs depending upon the species. Virginia rail birds live alone for most of the year and form pairs when it's their breeding season. They've also been observed to be quite territorial and defend themselves with grunting duets.

How long does a rail bird live?

These birds of the family Rallidae can live for five to nine years on average.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding behavior of rail birds varies from species to species. A few rail species have been observed to mate with the same mate every year, while some species breed with many mates or with a different mate every year.

Their clutch size is between six and 12 eggs typically with females and males both taking turns incubating them. Their nest is usually made in thick vegetation.

Interestingly, the Virginia rail is known to build a dummy nest where eggs are not laid. The young, after hatching, are covered with brown or black feathers and upon hatching, these young birds are known to exit the nest.

What is their conservation status?

Most rail species are extinct, particular after World War II. Also, many North American rails, like king rails and Virginia rails are hunted as a game.

The American black rail and the little yellow rail are quite small and aren't hunted.

Some of them have a Least Concern status according to the IUCN. Some of them are listed as Threatened due to cats and goats preying on them, however populations of species like the Lord Howe woodhen and the takahe have recovered due to the considerable efforts of conservation organizations.

Rail Bird Fun Facts

What do rail birds look like?

Rail birds are small to medium-sized birds that have long toes and medium to long legs that help them in running and walking efficiently. Females and males look similar.

The color of the plumage of rail birds can range from earthy tones like brown, tan, and black to iridescent shades of blue and green. The plumage of these birds has quite a loose texture.

The bill of the rail bird ranges between elongated to stubby. The body of the rail bird is quite narrow which aids these birds in moving through dense vegetation (like marshes) that they dwell in. The Galapagos rail has a dark-colored plumage which is overall black except for a gray breast and head.

It has useless wings that are quite short. The Virginia rail has white and black barred sides with a reddish bill.

The Virginia rail has also adapted to moving through dense marsh vegetation. Young rail birds, after hatching, are covered with brown or black feathers.

Rail Bird walking in shallow water

How cute are they?

Rail birds are quite cute as they're small-sized and have a magnificent plumage. Their young are also quite cute.

How do they communicate?

Rails are quite vocal and produce a variety of calls. They're heard before they're seen as they produce loud squawks and calls. They even flick their tails.

How big is a rail bird?

Rail birds can range between 4-18 in (11-45 cm) in length. The largest of all rails is the king rail which is a marsh bird that is the size of a chicken. The smallest of all rails is the Inaccessible Island rail whose length is similar to that of the chipping sparrow.

How fast can a rail bird fly?

Rails are small to medium-sized birds with long toes and legs which they utilize to run and walk on the ground. Most species have evolved to be flightless. The Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola), is more proficient at walking on mud than it is at swimming.

However, it can swim and dive with the help of its wings. Rails have a propensity to walk instead of flying because they've the highest ratio of leg-to-flight muscles. Some can fly but their flight is short and weak.

How much does a rail bird weigh?

They range between 0.04-6.6 lb (20-3,000 g) in weight.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Females and males do not have any distinct names.

What would you call a baby rail bird?

Young rails can be referred to as a chick.

What do they eat?

Many rails, like black rails, mainly feed during the day upon invertebrates like snails, isopods, dragonflies, bugs, and ants, as well as berries and seeds. Larger species like the king rail feed upon larger items like crabs and crayfish. Rails are preyed upon by cats and goats.

Are they dangerous?

No, these birds aren't dangerous. However, some can scratch people with their claws.

Would they make a good pet?

No, as these birds are wild birds, they cannot be great pets. In fact, they are often hunted for their tasty dark meat.

Did you know...

The black rail is the smallest of all rails that occur in North America!

What does a Virginia rail bird look like?

The Virginia rail often stays concealed in a marsh and can only be spotted because of its grunting. It has a reddish bill, white and black barred sides, and white-colored tail feathers.

What do water rails eat?

Water rails (Rail rallus) feed during the day upon animals like worms, gastropods, crustaceans, leeches, spiders, aquatic and terrestrial insects and their larvae, fish, small birds, mammals, and amphibians.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our Alexandrine parakeet fun facts and eagle surprising facts pages!

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable rail bird coloring pages!

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Written by Rhea Nischal

Bachelor of Business Administration specializing in Management

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Rhea NischalBachelor of Business Administration specializing in Management

A background in Business Administration and Management from MCM DAV College, Rhea has led her to work for her father's global business. However, her passion for content production, where she manages operations to ensure all processes run smoothly. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the piano and spending time with her one-year-old nephew.

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Fact-checked by Gowri Rao

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Gowri Rao picture

Gowri RaoBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

With a bachelor's degree in Economics from Krea University, Gowri is a highly skilled data analyst and an expert in regression and causation modeling. Her interests in economic trends, finance, and investment research complement her professional expertise. In addition to her professional pursuits, Gowri enjoys swimming, running, and playing the drums, and she is also a talented tutor.

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