Aug 15 2011
Here’s a bird you don’t see every day — even if you live near a saltmarsh.
This is a family of clapper rails (Rallus longirostris), a chicken-sized bird who lives on the coasts of North and South America, ranging from California to Ecuador and Cape Cod to Brazil. (There’s also a small population along the lower Colorado River.)
Clapper rails have a reputation for being shy but this is probably because they’re so hard to find. They rarely fly so you won’t see them in the air. Instead they prefer to walk through very dense saltmarsh vegetation looking for their favorite foods: crustaceans, insects, small fish and even bird eggs.
Though hard to find, it’s common to hear their calls when they’re courting. They probably make so much noise because they can’t see each other.
Steve Gosser was lucky to see a whole family of clapper rails in coastal Maryland. I’m glad he had his camera ready!
(photo by Steve Gosser)