Rallus limicola - Vieillot, 1819
Virginia Rail
Other English Common Names: Virginia rail
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Rallus limicola Vieillot, 1819 (TSN 176221)
French Common Names: râle de Virginie
Spanish Common Names: Rascón Limícola
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.106335
Element Code: ABNME05030
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Other Birds
Image 21671

© Dennis Donohue

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Gruiformes Rallidae Rallus
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Rallus limicola
Taxonomic Comments: The form occurring in Colombia and Ecuador is considered a distinct species (Rallus aequatorialis, Ecuadorian Rail) by some authorities (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 09Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 25Nov1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B,N5N (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5B,NUM,N5M (08Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S4N), Arizona (S4), Arkansas (S2S3N), California (SNR), Colorado (S4B), Connecticut (S3B), Delaware (S4), District of Columbia (S1N,SHB), Florida (SNRN), Georgia (S3S4), Idaho (S2N,S3B), Illinois (S3), Indiana (S3B), Iowa (S3B,S3N), Kansas (S2B,S3N), Kentucky (S1B), Louisiana (S4N), Maine (S4B), Maryland (S4B,S4N), Massachusetts (S4B,S4N), Michigan (S4), Minnesota (SNRB), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (S2), Montana (S5B), Navajo Nation (S3N), Nebraska (S4), Nevada (S3S4), New Hampshire (S4B), New Jersey (S3B), New Mexico (S4B,S4N), New York (S5), North Carolina (S3B,S5N), North Dakota (SNRB), Ohio (S3), Oklahoma (S1B), Oregon (S4), Pennsylvania (S3B), Rhode Island (S2B,S2N), South Carolina (SNRN), South Dakota (S5B), Tennessee (S1B,S3N), Texas (S3B), Utah (S4B,S3N), Vermont (S4B), Virginia (S2B,S3N), Washington (S3N,S4B), West Virginia (S1B,S1N), Wisconsin (S4B), Wyoming (S3B)
Canada Alberta (SUB), British Columbia (S4S5), Manitoba (S4B), New Brunswick (S3B,S3M), Nova Scotia (S2S3B), Ontario (S5B), Prince Edward Island (S2B), Quebec (S4B), Saskatchewan (S4B)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: BREEDS: locally from southern British Columbia to Newfoundland, south to northwestern Baja California, southern Arizona, west-central Texas, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina; also Louisiana, central Mexico, and South America. NORTHERN WINTER: southern British Columbia to northern Baja California and north to the Gulf Coast and North Carolina.

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Habitat loss has contributed to population declines; some of the habitat loss is due to drying of wetlands caused by drought (Conway et al. 1994).

Short-term Trend Comments: Breeding Bird Survey data indicate a significant population decline in the central U.S. during 1982-1991 (-3.6% per year); populations could increase if drought-caused drying of wetlands is reversed (Conway et al. 1994).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: BREEDS: locally from southern British Columbia to Newfoundland, south to northwestern Baja California, southern Arizona, west-central Texas, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina; also Louisiana, central Mexico, and South America. NORTHERN WINTER: southern British Columbia to northern Baja California and north to the Gulf Coast and North Carolina.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NN, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada AB, BC, MB, NB, NS, ON, PE, QC, SK

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WILDSPACETM 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT Hartford (09003), Litchfield (09005), Middlesex (09007), New London (09011), Tolland (09013)*, Windham (09015)*
ID Ada (16001), Bear Lake (16007), Bingham (16011), Blaine (16013), Bonner (16017), Bonneville (16019), Boundary (16021), Camas (16025), Canyon (16027), Custer (16037), Fremont (16043), Gooding (16047), Idaho (16049), Jefferson (16051), Kootenai (16055), Nez Perce (16069)
IN Boone (18011), De Kalb (18033), Elkhart (18039), Fulton (18049), Grant (18053), Henry (18065), Huntington (18069), Jasper (18073)*, Johnson (18081), Kosciusko (18085), La Porte (18091), Lagrange (18087), Lake (18089), Marshall (18099), Newton (18111), Noble (18113), Porter (18127), Pulaski (18131), St. Joseph (18141), Starke (18149), Steuben (18151), Sullivan (18153), Vermillion (18165), Warrick (18173), Whitley (18183)
KS Comanche (20033), Logan (20109), Morton (20129), Seward (20175), Stafford (20185)
MO Andrew (29003), Boone (29019), Chariton (29041), Holt (29087), Lincoln (29113), Linn (29115), Mercer (29129), Pike (29163), Platte (29165), Saline (29195), Stoddard (29207), Wayne (29223)
NH Rockingham (33015)
NJ Cape May (34009), Cumberland (34011), Essex (34013), Gloucester (34015), Hunterdon (34019), Middlesex (34023), Monmouth (34025), Morris (34027), Ocean (34029), Sussex (34037), Warren (34041)
OH Ashland (39005), Ashtabula (39007), Belmont (39013), Carroll (39019), Columbiana (39029), Delaware (39041), Geauga (39055), Greene (39057), Guernsey (39059), Hancock (39063)*, Holmes (39075), Huron (39077), Jackson (39079), Lake (39085), Lucas (39095), Mahoning (39099)*, Marion (39101), Ottawa (39123), Portage (39133), Putnam (39137), Richland (39139), Sandusky (39143), Seneca (39147), Summit (39153), Trumbull (39155), Union (39159), Warren (39165), Wayne (39169), Wood (39173), Wyandot (39175)
PA Armstrong (42005), Bedford (42009), Bucks (42017), Butler (42019), Delaware (42045), Erie (42049), Indiana (42063), Lawrence (42073), Luzerne (42079), Mercer (42085), Montgomery (42091), Northampton (42095), Northumberland (42097), Philadelphia (42101), Sullivan (42113), Susquehanna (42115), Venango (42121), Warren (42123), Wyoming (42131), York (42133)
TN Blount (47009)*, Hamilton (47065)*, Hawkins (47073), Sullivan (47163)*, Washington (47179)*
VA Accomack (51001), Clarke (51043), Fairfax (51059), Rockingham (51165), Virginia Beach (City) (51810)
WV Grant (54023), Jefferson (54037), Mason (54053)
WY Fremont (56013), Goshen (56015), Lincoln (56023), Niobrara (56027), Teton (56039)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Piscataqua-Salmon Falls (01060003)+, Lower Connecticut (01080205)+, Farmington (01080207)+, Shetucket (01100002)+*
02 Rondout (02020007)+, Hackensack-Passaic (02030103)+, Sandy Hook-Staten Island (02030104)+, Raritan (02030105)+, Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+, Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+, Lower Delaware (02040202)+, Schuylkill (02040203)+, Cohansey-Maurice (02040206)+, Mullica-Toms (02040301)+, Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+, Upper Susquehanna-Tunkhannock (02050106)+, Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna (02050107)+, Lower West Branch Susquehanna (02050206)+, Raystown (02050303)+, Lower Susquehanna (02050306)+, North Branch Potomac (02070002)+, South Fork Shenandoah (02070005)+, Shenandoah (02070007)+, Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan (02070010)+, Pokomoke-Western Lower Delmarva (02080111)+
03 Albemarle (03010205)+
04 Little Calumet-Galien (04040001)+, St. Joseph (04050001)+, Ottawa-Stony (04100001)+, St. Joseph (04100003)+, Blanchard (04100008)+, Lower Maumee (04100009)+, Cedar-Portage (04100010)+, Sandusky (04100011)+, Huron-Vermilion (04100012)+, Cuyahoga (04110002)+, Ashtabula-Chagrin (04110003)+, Grand (04110004)+
05 Conewango (05010002)+, Middle Allegheny-Tionesta (05010003)+, French (05010004)+, Middle Allegheny-Redbank (05010006)+, Conemaugh (05010007)+, Upper Ohio (05030101)+, Shenango (05030102)+, Mahoning (05030103)+, Connoquenessing (05030105)+, Tuscarawas (05040001)+, Mohican (05040002)+, Walhonding (05040003)+, Wills (05040005)+, Upper Scioto (05060001)+, Raccoon-Symmes (05090101)+, Little Miami (05090202)+, Salamonie (05120102)+, Mississinewa (05120103)+, Eel (05120104)+, Tippecanoe (05120106)+, Middle Wabash-Little Vermilion (05120108)+, Sugar (05120110)+, Middle Wabash-Busseron (05120111)+, Upper White (05120201)+, Driftwood (05120204)+, Highland-Pigeon (05140202)+
06 South Fork Holston (06010102)+*, Watauga (06010103)+*, Holston (06010104)+, Watts Bar Lake (06010201)+*, Middle Tennessee-Chickamauga (06020001)+*
07 The Sny (07110004)+, Kankakee (07120001)+, Iroquois (07120002)+, Chicago (07120003)+
08 Lower St. Francis (08020203)+
10 Popo Agie (10080003)+, Niobrara Headwaters (10150002)+, Horse (10180012)+, Nodaway (10240010)+, Independence-Sugar (10240011)+, North Fork Smoky Hill (10260002)+, Thompson (10280102)+, Lower Grand (10280103)+, Lower Missouri-Crooked (10300101)+, Lower Missouri-Moreau (10300102)+
11 Rattlesnake (11030009)+, Upper Cimarron (11040002)+, Upper Cimarron-Liberal (11040006)+, Upper Cimarron-Bluff (11040008)+
14 Blacks Fork (14040107)+
16 Bear Lake (16010201)+
17 Lower Kootenai (17010104)+, Pend Oreille Lake (17010214)+, Coeur D'alene Lake (17010303)+, Upper Spokane (17010305)+, Snake headwaters (17040101)+*, Idaho Falls (17040201)+, Upper Henrys (17040202)+, Lower Henrys (17040203)+, Willow (17040205)+, American Falls (17040206)+, Upper Snake-Rock (17040212)+, Beaver-Camas (17040214)+, Big Lost (17040218)+, Camas (17040220)+, Little Wood (17040221)+, Lower Boise (17050114)+, Middle Snake-Payette (17050115)+, South Fork Clearwater (17060305)+, Clearwater (17060306)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Reproduction Comments: Lays clutch of 5-12 eggs, April-June on the U.S. West Coast, May to June or July in the middle Atlantic and northern states. Incubation lasts about 19-20 days, by both sexes. Young leave nest soon after hatching, tended by both parents. Black downy chicks have been observed as late as August in Michigan (Brewer et al. 1991). Cornell Nest Record Program records indicate a nest success rate of 0.53 (Conway et al. 1994).
Ecology Comments: In Arizona, annual survival probability was 0.53; all documented mortality occurred between October and March (Conway et al. 1994).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Arrives in northern breeding areas generally in April-May, departs by October-November (Bent 1926); in Michigan, most have departed by mid-October (Brewer et al. 1991). May make local migrations in the Pacific states, generally extensive migrations elsewhere.
Estuarine Habitat(s): Herbaceous wetland
Riverine Habitat(s): SPRING/SPRING BROOK
Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian
Habitat Comments: Freshwater and occasionally brackish marshes, mostly in cattails, reeds, and deep grasses (AOU 1983), also in or close to other emergent vegetation. Inhabits shallow, freshwater, emergent wetlands of every size and type, from roadside ditches and borders of lakes and streams to large cattail marshes (Brewer et al. 1991). Capable of using very small marshes (e.g., 5 nests have been found in a half-acre marsh) (see Brewer et al. 1991). Interspersion of open water and vegetation is an important habitat component (Brewer et al. 1991). Also occurs in salt marshes during the nonbreeding season (Cogswell 1977).

Nests in dense marsh vegetation over water, or in rank vegetation next to water; nest usually is less than 30 cm above water level. Often nests in vegetation next to open water. NON-BREEDING: In southern Canada overwinters in ice-free, spring-fed wetlands (Cannings et al. 1987).

Adult Food Habits: Granivore, Herbivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Granivore, Herbivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Eats insects, worms, crustaceans, and other invertebrates, seeds of aquatic plants (especially in fall), duckweed, and occasionally small fishes. Preferred prey includes predaceous diving beetles, water scavenger beetles, flies, and snails (see Brewer et al. 1991). Probes into mud with bill, often among or next to vegetation adjacent to open water. (Terres 1980, Cogswell 1977).
Length: 24 centimeters
Weight: 89 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Management Requirements: See Eddleman et al. (1988) for information on managing waterfowl areas in a way that is compatible with rail conservation.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Rails

Use Class: Breeding
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: The high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by fairly large distances makes it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for rails; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Little information available, but most rails appear to have very small breeding home ranges: Clapper Rail, varies from an average of 0.4 hectares in California and Louisiana (Zembal et al. 1989) to 3.6 hectares (incubating males) in Arizona; Eddleman 1989); Sora, average of 0.19 ha during brood-rearing (Johnson and Dinsmore 1985). Dispersal distances are poorly known but surely extend at least a few kilometers.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .1 km
Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Cannings, S., and G. Hammerson
Notes: Includes all species in the family Rallidae.

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of traditional occurrence (including historical); minimally a reliable observation of 10 or more wintering or resident individuals in appropriate habitat (for rare taxa can be minimally one individual). Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events outside the normal distribution.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distances are arbitrary and attempt to balance the general sedentary nature of these birds with their capability to disperse significant distances across suitable and unsuitable habitat.

Nonbreeding home ranges are relatively small. In Arizona, home ranges of non-breeding Clapper Rails significantly larger than breeding home ranges; varied from 21.0 hectares (August-October females) to 24.0 hectares (winter males; Eddleman 1989); elsewhere home ranges considerably smaller (Zembal et al. 1989). Soras wintering in Arizona had average home range sizes of 0.78 hectares (Conway 1990). Even at the northern end of their wintering range (British Columbia), Virginia Rails can persist in spring-fed marshes less than 1 ha in extent (R. J. Cannings, pers. comm.)

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .1 km
Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Cannings, S., and G. Hammerson
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 17Jan1995
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): HAMMERSON, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Poole, A. F. and F. B. Gill. 1992. The birds of North America. The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. and The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA.

  • Post, W. and F. Enders 1970. Notes on a salt marsh Virginia rail population. Kingbird 20:61-67.

  • Raffaele, H., J. Wiley, O. Garrido, A. Keith, and J. Raffaele. 1998. A guide to the birds of the West Indies. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. 511 pp.

  • Resource Inventory Committee. 1998. Inventory Methods for Bitterns and Rail: Standards for Components of British Columbia's Biodiversity. No. 7. Version 2.0. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC.

  • Ridgely, R. S. and P. J. Greenfield. 2001. The birds of Ecuador: Status, distribution, and taxonomy. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, USA.

  • Ripley, S. D. 1977. Rails of the world. M.F. Feheley Publishers, Ltd., Toronto. 406 pp. [publication by same name published by Smithsonian 1984; same?]

  • See SERO listing

  • Swift, Bryan L. 1987. An analysis of avian breeding habitats in Hudson River Tidal Marshes. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, The Hudson River Foundation for Science and Environmental Research, Inc. 62 pp.

  • Terres, J. K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

  • Zembal, R., B. M. Massey, and J. M. Fancher. 1989. Movements and activity patterns of the light-footed clapper rail. Journal of Wildlife Management 53:39-42.

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