Clapper Rail

Clapper Rail

Rallus crepitans
Population size
Life Span
7.6 yrs
160-400 g
32-41 cm

The Clapper rail is a large ground-dwelling bird that rarely flies and spends all its life in dense marsh vegetation. It is grayish-brown with a pale chestnut breast and a noticeable white patch under the tail. Its bill curves slightly downwards.


Clapper rails are found along the Atlantic coasts of the eastern U.S., the Gulf of Mexico, eastern Mexico, some Caribbean islands, and south through eastern Central America, as well at several inland locales. They live mainly in salt marshes but also can be found in the brackish marsh and mangrove swamps.

Clapper Rail habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Clapper rails are diurnal being most active in the early morning and late evening. They spend most of their lives on the ground hiding in dense vegetation. They move by walking, running, and may occasionally climb into tall vegetation. These birds also swim well and may even dive when they sense any danger. They can sometimes form loose colonies but when foraging and during the breeding season Clapper rails are territorial. They search for food while walking, sometimes probing with their long bills, in shallow water or mud. In order to communicate with each other they use clicks, 'kek' calls and grunting outbursts.

Diet and Nutrition

Clapper rails are omnivores. These birds eat crabs, crustaceans, aquatic insects, small fish, and eggs. They also eat seeds and vegetation at times, especially during winter and summer months.

Mating Habits

20-23 days
9-10 weeks
3-7 eggs

These birds are serially monogamous and pairs stay bonded during the breeding season. They nest on the bank near the water, in mangrove roots, or even on floating mats of vegetation. The female lays 3 to 7 purple-spotted buff eggs and both parents incubate them for 20-23 days. The chicks hatch fully developed, covered with black down, and are able to leave the nest within one day. They usually fledge at the age of 9 to 10 weeks.


Population threats

The main threats to Clapper rails include habitat loss due to land development and degradation and pollution of the wetlands.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Clapper rail total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on The IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • During the nesting period and when raising their young Clapper rails often use a “broken wing” display in order to distract predators and take them away from nests.
  • Clapper rails have salt glands due to which they are able to drink seawater.
  • When moving across the water Clapper rails carry their chicks on backs.
  • About a week after hatching the Clapper rail pair divides their brood and each parent looks after half the offspring.
  • Clapper rails are quite brave and if needed won't hesitate to compete with other shorebirds for nest sites, in particular with gulls.


1. Clapper Rail on Wikipedia -
2. Clapper Rail on The IUCN Red List site -

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