YELLOW RAIL (Coturnicops noveboracensis) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Yellow Rail adult has brown upper parts with beige streaks on the back and wings. Head and face sides are yellowish-beige with a brown band across the eye. Wing terminal feathers are grey. Under parts are yellowish beige with some fine barring on the breast. Sides are barred dark brown and whitish. Bill is short and orange in breeding male, grey otherwise. Eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are yellowish green. Bird length is around 15 cm (6 inches).
VOICE: – this bird’s clicking calls are heard at night most of the time.
NAME: English name ‘Rail’ derives from old French and means ‘to make a scraping noise’, in reference to the bird calls. Latin genus name ‘Coturnicops’ means ‘looking like a quail’. Latin species name ‘noveboracensis’ means ‘of New York’.
HABITAT: Prairies and meadows with wetlands.
DIET: Insects, some seeds.
NESTING: Nest is built on humid ground or above shallow water. Around nine creamy eggs are laid, likely incubated by female. Chicks likely fed by female.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeds mostly in central Canada up to the tree line, also in north central USA. During migration is found along a central corridor in the USA. Winters along the coasts of southeast USA.
Distribution Map: – /media/File:Coturnicops_noveboracensis_m
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, sightings listed as ‘accidental’ (in the summer) so far. See note below on bird vagrancy.
CONSERVATION: Population in decline, listed as a species of ‘special concern’ in Ontario due to loss of habitat.
NOTES: Very secretive, hard to see bird.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
REFERENCES: (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas) (Montana Field Guide) (University of Michigan) (Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas)

Yellow Rail – Seney National Wildlife Refuge, MI – May 2009 – photo by Dominic Sherony
Yellow Rail in flight – Thornwell, LA – Oct. 2013 – photo by Julio Mulero