Formerly considered conspecific with Ridgway's Rail of the Pacific Coast and the more southerly Aztec Rail, which is endemic to central Mexico. A relatively large rail of coastal regions. Adult has orange head and breast, variable gray to near black belly and flanks with evenly spaced vertical white bars, brownish back with dusky black streaks, mostly white undertail coverts, very short tail, dark crown, and red eye. The bill is relatively long, slightly decurved, and shows orangish yellow on the basal two-thirds of the lower mandible. Atlantic birds are drab gray, lacking bright orange tones. Extremely similar King Rail of Gulf and Atlantic regions is more boldly-marked with dark black streaks and bars, more contrasting on upperparts. But note range.
Length: 37 (cm) Wingspan: 48 (cm)
Halting, unevenly spaced notes, resonant and grunting calls. Similar to King Rail, but generally slightly faster.
Coastal salt marshes.
Skulks in heavily vegetated marshland. Secretive like other rails but more likely to venture out into the open than smaller rail species; heard more often than seen. Often holds tail upright, walks somewhat chicken-like. Nest is a cup of vegetation on the ground, well-concealed.
Forages on ground, along mudflats, and in puddles; eats small aquatic organisms and some plant material.
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