Nature Journal
with Photos

          
King Rail Identification Tips
(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)
 
General Information
- Fairly large, chunky, short-tailed, round-winged,
  ground-dwelling marsh bird
- Long, slightly decurved bill
- Most often seen walking, rarely flies
- Often flicks and cocks its short tail, exposing white
  undertail coverts
- Sexes similar

Adult
- Rich reddish-brown face, neck, breast, and wing
  coverts
- White throat
- Dark brown cap and hindneck
- Brown back feathers with tawny edges
- Whitish belly
- Flanks strongly barred with white and dark brown

Juvenile
- Pale buff head and neck
- Back and upperwings darker than in adult
- White belly
- Barring on flanks less distinct than in adult

Similar species
Downy young King Rails can be mistaken for Black Rails, but have dark (not red eyes), a white bill, and lack spotting on the back and barring on the flanks. The smaller Virginia Rail has a redder bill and much more contrast between the gray cheeks and the cinnamon underparts.

The King Rail is very similar as an adult to the Clapper Rail, but is more frequently found in freshwater marshes. Adults are easily separated from East Coast Clapper Rails by their rich reddish brown head, neck and underparts without contrast between the cheeks and body plumage. The reddish upperwings separate King Rails from all races of Clapper Rail.
 
 
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