Water Rail
Rallus aquaticus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae
Genus: Rallus
Linnaeus, 1758

see list


Epirallus Miller, 1942


Rallus is a genus of wetland birds of the rail family. Sometimes, the genera Lewinia and Gallirallus are included in it. Six of the species are found in the Americas, and the three species found in Eurasia, Africa and Madagascar are very closely related to each other, suggesting they are descended from a single invasion of a New World ancestor.[1]

These are slim, long-billed rails with slender legs. Their laterally flattened bodies are an adaptation to life in wet reedbeds and marshes, enabling them to slip easily through the dense semi-aquatic vegetation. Typically these birds have streaked brown upperparts, blue-grey on the face or breast, and barred flanks. Only the African Rail has a plain back, and the Plain-flanked Rail lacks any blue-grey in its plumage and has no flank bars.[1]

The three endemic South American species are endangered by habitat loss, and the Madagascar Rail is becoming rare.


Based on Maley (2012)[2] and Maley and Brumfield (2013),[3] King Rail, Rallus elegans, has been split into King Rail, Rallus elegans and Aztec Rail, Rallus tenuirostris; Clapper Rail, Rallus longirostris, has also been split into Clapper Rail, Rallus crepitans, Ridgway's Rail, Rallus obsoletus, and Mangrove Rail, Rallus longirostris.

Clapper/King Rail complex

Species Subspecies Range
Ridgway's Rail
R. obsoletus
obsoletus, levipes, yumanensis,
rhizophorae, beldingi
western US,
western Mexico
Aztec Rail
R. tenuirostris
tenuirostris central Mexico
Mangrove Rail
R. longirostris
phelpsi, margaritae*, pelodramus*,
longirostris*, crassirostris*, cypereti
South America
King Rail
R. elegans
elegans, ramsdeni eastern US and Mexico,
Clapper Rail
R. crepitans
crepitans, saturatus, waynei,
scottii, insularum, pallidus*,
grossi*, belizensis*, coryi,
leucophaeus, caribaeus
eastern US and Mexico,
Belize, Caribbean

* = subspecies not sampled by Maley and Brumfield (2013).[3]
Source: Taxonomy in Flux[4]


Living species

Madagascan Rail, Biensis madagascariensis is in its own genus.[4]

Fossil record

  • Ibiza Rail, Rallus eivissensis (prehistoric)
  • Rallus sp. (Sajóvölgyi Middle Miocene of Mátraszõlõs, Hungary)[5]
  • Rallus lacustris (Late Pliocene of C North America)
  • Rallus phillipsi (Late Pliocene of Wickieup, USA)
  • Rallus prenticei (Late Pliocene of C North America)
  • Rallus sp. (Rexroad Late Pliocene of Saw Rock Canyon, USA)
  • Rallus auffenbergi (Middle Pleistocene of SE North America) - formerly Porzana
  • Rallus ibycus (Shore Hills Late Pleistocene of Bermuda, W Atlantic)
  • Rallus recessus (St Georges Soil Late Pleistocene of Bermuda, W Atlantic)
  • Rallus natator (Pleistocene of San Josecito Cavern, Mexico) - formerly Epirallus
  • Rallus richmondi - includes R. dubius

Formerly in Rallus

"R" sumiderensis apparently refers to prehistoric remains of the Zapata Rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai).


  1. ^ a b Taylor & van Perlo (1998)
  2. ^ Maley, J.M. (2012), “Ecological Speciation of King Rails (Rallus elegans) and Clapper Rails (Rallus longirostris)”, Ph.D. Dissertation, Louisiana State University.
  3. ^ a b Maley, J.M., and R.T. Brumfield (2013), Mitochondrial and Next-Generation Sequence Data Used to Infer Phylogenetic Relationships and Species Limits in the Clapper/King Rail Complex, Condor 115, 316-329.
  4. ^ a b Boyd, John (August 6, 2014). "Rallidae" (v. 2.64d ed.). Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  5. ^ Gál et al. (1998-1999)


  • Gál, Erika; Hír, János; Kessler, Eugén & Kókay, József (1998–99): Középsõ-miocén õsmaradványok, a Mátraszõlõs, Rákóczi-kápolna alatti útbevágásból. I. A Mátraszõlõs 1. lelõhely [Middle Miocene fossils from the sections at the Rákóczi chapel at Mátraszőlős. Locality Mátraszõlõs I.]. Folia Historico Naturalia Musei Matraensis 23: 33-78. [Hungarian with English abstract] PDF fulltext
  • Taylor, P. Barry & van Perlo, Ber (1998): Rails : a guide to the rails, crakes, gallinules, and coots of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven. ISBN 0-300-07758-0

External links

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