Learn All About Rallidae, A Family Of Birds

Birds of the family Rallidae (Rallidae) are small wading birds of the order Gruiformes, of which there are a little more than 130 species worldwide. This family includes Fulicas, gallinules and rattlesnakes that are present in Quebec, but also perhaps living in the United States. There are 13 species in North America, including 10 in Canada and only 5 in Quebec.

The Family Rallidae

They are long-legged birds with long, strong toes, adapted for aquatic movement. They are terrestrial and aquatic birds that stay mainly in the marshes, where they can hide and capture their prey.

They can measure between 12 and 63 cm depending on the species of rallidé. They have short, rounded wings that are weaker and therefore less able to fly. They prefer to sneak into vegetation where they have the ability to run to hide when disturbed.

Migrating species will fly at night. Since they like to hide in marsh grasses, they will often be heard without being seen, as they are quite noisy, especially at night. Small, usually dark-colored flats often have very large legs when they hatch.

Most are omnivorous birds. They have a long beak, with a pointed tip that allows them to capture prey more easily. They usually feed on small prey such as invertebrates, insects or small amphibians.

Some individuals eat seaweed instead of plucking it from the bottom of the marsh, where it is shallow. The tail is short and the neck is long enough to help them grab their food.

We can identify different species of Rallidae by the size, plumage color, shape and habitat of the animals.

Order Gruiformes

The bird order Gruiformes includes small and large wading birds depending on the species. There are more than 180 species worldwide. This order includes several families such as the gruids whose cranes are part, the large family of reptiles such as Fulicae, gallinules and waders.

They are long-legged birds with long and strong toes, suitable for moving in waterways. They are terrestrial and aquatic birds that frequent marshes mainly for hops, and open areas along rivers for nets. They can measure between 12 and 63 cm depending on the species.

Smaller species often have short, rounded wings that are less capable of flight. Larger species, such as Sandhill Crane, have large wings that allow them to fly and travel over long distances. The tail is short and the neck is usually long enough to help them grasp food quickly.

They prefer to hide in vegetation by taking advantage of camouflage, flying or running to hide when disturbed. Most make the southward migration warmer and fly during the night. The nest is placed on the ground, and the nesting young are covered with down and already have very long legs from birth.

They are generally omnivorous birds, but will prefer to use their long beaks with sharp points to capture prey in water or marsh grass. They feed on small prey such as invertebrates, insects, amphibians, tadpoles and fish. Some also eat seaweed that they extract from the marsh bottom.

The different species of bird-like birds can be identified by size, plumage color, shape and the habitat they frequent.

Wading Birds

Wading birds are easy to recognize, they have long legs. Depending on the species, they may feed on small rodents, frogs as well as many birds that are not waders.

A wading bird is rarely dangerous, in fact, they can only be saved and are easy prey.

List of Rallid Birds

We will talk here about some specimens that are classified in the family Rallidae.


Appearance: squat black waterbird with characteristic white bill and frontal plate. Wings are broad and rounded, with a narrow white band along the back edge of the primary feathers.

Dimensions: length 36 to 42 cm, wingspan 70 to 80 cm, weight 0.6 to 1.2 kg.

Nest: May be well hidden among sedge and rush vegetation from previous years, most visible in a mound or abandoned muskrat nest. Made from plant stems, lined with dried sedge leaves, etc.

Reproduction: 4 to 12 eggs laid from late April, cared for by both parents from 21 to 24 days. Chicks learn to fly after approximately 50 to 63 days. Eggs may hatch at very different times (age difference in the same litter can reach 6 days, as females start hatching after laying the first egg).

Hatchlings leave the nest 3-4 days after hatching, but return at night. Males may build their own observation nests at altitude. Adults aggressively defend their nests and pups and attack invaders, including much larger animals and birds. They may also behave aggressively toward their own offspring.

Distribution: thriving in wetlands and inland water points in southern and central Finland, but also along the coast further north, where its range extends to Oulu. The Finnish population is estimated at 8,000-15,000 pairs.

Migration: Norcturno. Fall migration begins in mid-August and continues until late fall or even early winter. Birds return to Finland from March to April. Winter in western Europe, southern Scandinavia and Finland, most often on the Aland Islands.

Feeding: Invertebrates, aquatic plants. Dive underwater to search for food, rise sharply to the same place at the surface as a plug (dive vertically, without moving underwater).

Sounds: various calls, including a screeching, metallic “kek”, a “pits” chirp, and a “pev-pev” groan.

The Fulica is a stocky, round, almost entirely black (or gray-black) member of the rattlesnake family. Its white bill and faceplate, and a narrow white band along the line of flight of its wings, barely visible on flying birds, are the only features that stand out against its uniform black color.

Juveniles are blackish brown on the head and upperparts, but their cheeks, chin and throat are white, while their belly and underbelly are brownish gray. The color of the Fulica’s legs varies from black to green, with a reticulated webbing on its toes. The adult has a bright red iris, and younger birds are brown.

The Fulica has been declared a game species in Finland in the 1980s. It is the only roach space among the 26 bird species that are legally hunted in Finland.

Gallinula or Water Hen

Appearance: It is the size of a pigeon with a fairly long tail in wet soils. Its appearance is reminiscent of Fulica, but it has a yellow and red bill, and its caudal cover has a distinctive central black spot.

Dimensions: Length 27 to 31 cm, span 50 to 55 cm, weight 190 to 490 g. Male slightly larger.

Nest: Basket-shaped mound high enough, made of aquatic plant materials and willow branches in a shallow hollow.Many nests have a ramp-like access structure. It can be built on a dry bank or float on the water.

Reproduction: 3 to 11 eggs laid in late April, clumped by both parents for 19 to 22 days. Eggs hatch at very different times, the male takes care of the first chicks. The young leave the nest immediately.

They become independent in about a week, but do not take off until about 56 days. The parents bravely and aggressively defend their nest and the young against intruders, including birds or other much larger animals.

Distribution: rare breeding in adapted wetlands and ponds in southern Finland. Present at scattered sites as far north as Lapland. Total Finnish breeding population estimated at only 50-200 pairs. Much rarer in Finland than in Central Europe, where it is a common bird in parks and canals.

Migration: Nocturnal. Leaves Finland in September-November and returns in March-April. Winters in western and southern Europe, but sometimes also in Finland.

Food: Aquatic and shore plants, invertebrates.

Sounds emitted: nuptial call is a resounding “bek-bek-bek, bek-bek-bek-bek,” often followed by a cry. The most common cry is a vibratory, guttural krr.

It is classified as a vulnerable species in Finland.

It usually looks like a fulica, but is smaller and less thick. Its color is usually very dark, bluish-gray, with dark brown back and wings. It has a white cloaca, and a clearly visible white band in the direction of length on each flank.

Its frontal plate and the base of its bill are bright red. Juveniles are grayish brown with a white throat and the same markings on their cloaca and flanks, but do not exhibit the red faceplate.

Waterfowl have yellowish or greenish legs with extremely long, slightly webbed toes. The adult has a red band around the thighs, while juveniles have a yellowish band on each leg.

Adults have a bright red bill with a yellow tip. The bill of juveniles is greenish brown. The iris of waterfowl can be red (adult) or brown (juvenile). ( See Article: Otis Tarda )

Porzana Porzana

Appearance: A small rattlesnake with a short, straight bill, greenish legs and yellow subcutaneous coverts. It is distinguished primarily by its characteristic attractiveness.

Dimensions: length 19 to 22 cm, wingspan 37 to 42 cm, weight 57 to 147 g.

Nest: in reeds or sedges, built with great care using a structure consisting of a roof made of reed, the other parts are designed with turf, rush, root fibers and hair

Reproduction: 8 to 12 eggs laid in May-June, incubated by both parents for 18 to 21 days. Young can fly after 25 to 35 days, but leave the nest a few hours after hatching and learn to forage on their own within a few days.

Distribution: niche in reeds, sedges and wet meadows. Stealthy nature Races rarely in Finland, where the population is estimated at 500-1,500 breeding pairs.

Migration: Nocturne. Head south in August-October and return in April-May. Winter in Africa.

Feeding: small invertebrates, aquatic plants and their seeds.

Sounds emitted: characteristic high-pitched whistling sound, characteristic, repeated at intervals of about one second for long periods during spring and early summer nights.

The Porzana resembles the water rattlesnake, but is smaller, being about the size of the starling. It has a much shorter bill and has a more uniform olive-brown color, with white spots throughout its plumage.

Its flanks are streaked along the length, while a grayer color is visible on the throat and breast, and its caudal coverts are yellowish. The spotted lark has greenish legs and its bill, also greenish, has a yellowish-red base and a brownish tip. The iris is brown

The Porzana is a bird that has been mastered in the art of concealment. With a little luck, it is possible to stealthily locate the tilted head in an undergrowth. She flies by turning and letting her legs drag.

In Finland, you can sometimes see two similar birds that seem closely related, the chubby marmot ( P. parva ) and Baillon’s marcette ( P. pusilla ). They are distinguished from the dotted woodcock mainly by their vocalizations.

The call of the lark hen is a long-range barking kva, initially repeated regularly, then accelerating before ending in a stuttering stutter. The hoglet emits a softer, drier call, reminiscent of the teal, black frog or green frog. ( See Article: Caiques )


Appearance: Rare, small and stubby, with a long slender bill slightly curved downward. Appears dark from afar, but has a bright white cloaca.

Dimensions: length 23 to 26 cm, wingspan 38 to 45 cm, weight 75 to 190 g. Largest male.

Nest: hollow nest in the ground, almost as large as a thrush’s nest, hidden in a clump of vegetation near the shore, made of dried sedge leaves, rushes and oxyria.

Reproduction: 6 to 11 eggs laid in May, shared by both parents for 19 to 21 days. Chicks leave the nest immediately after hatching and learn to forage themselves after about 5 days. They know how to fly within 42 to 49 days.

Distribution: in reed beds and reeds around marine lakes and gulfs. Most common in southern Finland. Discrete, its presence is noticed only thanks to its characteristic call. The Finnish breeding population is estimated at 300-600 pairs.

Migration: nocturnal migrant. Fall migration begins in August, but may continue until late fall. Spring migration begins in late March or early April. Winter in western and southern Europe. Some birds sometimes attempt to winter in Finland.

Food: Invertebrates found in reed beds, marshes, and shallow water.

Sounds emitted: Emits many different cries. Very often, a series of “gips-gip” ends with a cry reminiscent of pork.

Its olive-brown back has black spots, while the cheeks, throat and chest are dark gray. Its flanks are marked with black and white bands and its cloaca has white spots.

The long, slender, slightly curved bill is reddish in adults (with black tip and groove on the upper mandible) and brown in juveniles. Juveniles differ in that their underparts lack the gray color of adults and are lighter, with dark bands on the belly.

Water rattlesnakes have red-brown legs and their toes are very long. Its iris can be red or reddish-brown.

The wader spends most of its time hidden in the dense vegetation of the shore, which makes it difficult to observe. On the other hand, it is common to hear him. He is able to move with agility in wet vegetation.

Rascón Piquilargo

Appearance: is rarely observed, and is most often heard on summer nights in agricultural lands. It looks like a water noise, but its bill is shorter and duller. In flight, its wings are reddish brown and its legs dangle below its tail.

Dimensions: length 22 to 25 cm, wingspan 42 to 53 cm, weight 129 to 210 g.

Nest: made with some dry grass scattered in a hollow in the middle of dense vegetation.

Reproduction: 6 to 14 eggs laid from May to June, hunted by the female for 14 to 21 days. Chicks leave the nest a few hours after hatching, and learn to forage themselves after 3-4 days. They take flight after 30 to 35 days.

Distribution: breeds in grasslands and cultivated fields. Numbers declined drastically during the 20th century, the most likely reason being changes in agricultural practices.

They have recovered somewhat since the last two decades. The current Finnish breeding population is estimated at 2,000-8,000 pairs (variations may be due to the effects of changing climatic conditions during migration).

Migration: Nocturnal. Leaves Finland between August and October. In return, we can hear the first cries of males on farmland in early May. We don’t know much about migratory behavior. Winter in Africa.

Feeding : Invertebrates, seeds and shoots.

Sounds emitted: Squeaky, ??shrill, metallic call that is frequently repeated in the evening and at night.

The Piquilargo is protected throughout Finland, including the Aland Islands.

Its shape and color make it look like a small game bird, although it belongs to the rattlesnake family classified in the order of cranes and birds of this type.

Its color is generally yellowish brown, with dark spots on its upper surface and longer dark stripes along its flanks and underside.

Its wings are red. Its legs are light reddish brown, its bill is light brown with a dark tip and its iris is light brown.

The Piquilargo is rarely observed because it is very shy and discreet. In flight, he flies, letting his legs hang from the back of his tail, while his wings appear round. ( See Article: Grus Grus )

Porphyrio martinica

Appearance: Her head, chest and neck are purple. She wears a light blue shield on her forehead and her beak is red with a yellow tip. Her eyes are red.

Dimensions: The male and female are identical, except that females are larger. They are 27 to 36 cm long, have a wingspan of 50 to 55 cm and a weight that varies from 200 to 290 g.

Nest: It nests among thick aquatic vegetation. Its nest is a floating platform in the form of a cutout made with plants and covered with a roof and a ramp.Both parents build the nest.

Reproduction: Breeding takes place from May to August in North America. The pair is faithful. After mating, the female lays 2 to 6 eggs, which both birds incubate for 18 to 20 days. The parents feed the chicks for a week, after which they can feed themselves. After 5 to 7 weeks, they will be able to fly.

Feeding: Purple Gallinules feed on fruits, insects, frogs, fish, as well as the eggs and chicks of other waterfowl.

American Fulica

Appearance: She has a slate-colored plumage, which becomes darker on the neck and head. She has only a small white band on the wing. Her bill is white with a small black band near the tip. She wears a brown forehead. The eyes are bright red, and the yellow-green legs end with long lobed toes.

Dimensions: They are waders that measure between 33 and 41 cm, have a wingspan of 60-70 cm and weigh around 500 to 900 g. Male and female are similar, but males are larger. The immature ones are grayer and have no black band on the bill, but do not have white lines on the flanks like gallinula.

Nest: The well-hidden nest is built in vegetation. After mating, the female lays 8 to 12 buff, or gray, eggs covered with dark brown spots. Both parents are coaxing them for a little more than three weeks.

The chicks leave the nest soon after being released from the egg and can fly about 10 weeks after hatching. In the meantime, the adults take care of the youngest.

Distribution: She lives in northern, central and southern Canada. It is a bird that migrates south in the fall. As habitat, it lives near ponds, rivers, marshes and shallow lakes, where it can dive for food. It is an omnivorous bird that feeds on mollusks, small fish, crustaceans and seaweed. ( See Article: Eagle’s Eye View )

Difference Between Lake and Pond

It is not always easy to differentiate between sea, ocean, lake and pond. Even scientists sometimes disagree with these classifications. Some simple characteristics of each of these bodies of water make it a little clearer.

“A vast expanse of salt water covering much of the surface of the Globe” . Dictionaries do not always make the difference between a sea and an ocean. However, just as there are differences between a river, the sea and the ocean have well-defined characteristics.

Lakes, on the other hand, differ from oceans and seas in that they are filled with fresh water. They are isolated from the sea, fed by a watercourse and also include an emissary stream. To qualify for lake designation, a body of water must be large and deep enough (more than 20 meters) to allow deposition of sediments on the bottom and

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