Clapper Rail

Rallus crepitans
Range Map

In 2014, several subspecies of the Clapper Rail clan received full species status. The west coastal “Light-Footed Clapper Rail” became the Ridgway’s Rail (Rallus obsoletus levipes). The “Yuma Clapper Rail” became the subspecies Rallus obsoletus yumanensis. These changes came by order of the high command of the American Ornithological Union. Those members living along the coast of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, have kept the name of “Clapper Rail”.

Even with the separation of those members on the west coast, there remain eleven recognized subspecies of Clapper Rail. The four living in the USA are:

  • R. c. crepitans lives along the Atlantic coast from Connecticut to North Carolina.
  • R. c. waynei in Coastal Atlantic salt marshes from North Carolina to eastern Florida.
  • R. c. saturatus lives on the Gulf Coast from Alabama to Texas and Tamaulipas (Mexico).
  • R. c. scottii, which live in south Florida.

Clapper Rails have some special adaptations and behaviors that help them survive the trials of living in a coastal marsh environment. They have special glands that permit the drinking of sea water. Their eggs can survive immersion under high tide waters without losing the ability to hatch healthy young. Parents carry very young chicks on their backs during high tides and when crossing bodies of deep water.

While visiting south Texas, I have enjoyed fortuitous encounters with these elusive birds. My meetings occurred during visits to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. In the spring of 2021, a bird emerged from the marshy edges and casually walked through the scene near the boardwalk I had been filming. Then, just as I captured a few frames, it disappeared into the edge growth not to be seen again. I returned in the fall of 2022 and met them once again.

8 Photos

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