King Rail Video Portrait

Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge, North of St. Louis along the Mississippi River, is famous for its King Rails. In July females lead their chicks out in the open to feed, and so these normally elusive birds are relatively easy to see. I have wanted to visit the refuge to see the rails for some years now, and finally the encouraging posts on the internet from St. Louis birders pushed me over the edge and I went to the refuge on July 13, 2010. I was lucky to meet some of these individuals in person as well as to see and film the rails.

placeholder image for the Swainson's Warbler video clip by Carl Gerhardt

The King Rail is the largest North American Rail and was first described by John James Audubon. These are primarily fresh-water birds, whereas their close relative, the Clapper Rail, occurs mainly in salt marshes. Their range is centered along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, but they are found in scattered places throughout the Midwest and East.

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  1. What a wonderful video! Here MI we don’t have so many King Rails, and I have never seen or heard one. I could see the Mom in the video giving bits of a frog to the chick .

  2. Nice catch, Carl! King Rail has been a favorite target of mine. Although I have a good recording of its “kek-kek-kek” call from South Carolina, I have never had one come out into the open and remain for so long. And then the chicks – just great.

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