Ridgway’s Rail

Rallus obsoletus
Range Map

Prior to 2014, science lumped this and other rail species in with other forms of the Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris). Today, only the birds in eastern North America, from the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coast, and nearby islands retain the name “Clapper Rail”, though they received a new scientific name (Rallus crepitans).

As with most members of the “Rail” clan, because of their shy nature, they are more often heard than seen. We find the Clapper Rail group in salt marshes and mangrove swamps. It is more common in the eastern USA and eastern South America. In the western USA it is less common. It is threatened and endangered in the west because of destruction of the coastal marshland habitat. Scientists disagree on the sub-species in this group. Some believe the King Rail and the Aztec Rail should be included here.

Today’s mainstream science recognises six subspecies of Ridgway’s Rail:

  • R. o. obsoletus lives in California from Humboldt Bay south to Monterey Bay.
  • R. o. levipes lives in Santa Barbara, California, south to at least Baja California.
  • R. o. beldingi lives in Baja California peninsula, from San Quintín south.
  • R. o. yumanensis lives in southeastern California, southwestern Arizona, south through northeastern Baja California and northwestern Sonora.
  • R. o. rhizophorae lives in northwestern Mexico from Sonora south to Sinaloa.
  • R. o. nayaritensis lives in western Mexico from Sinaloa to Nayarit.

I’ve enjoyed meeting these secretive birds in various locations near the south end of San Diego Bay and in the Tijuana River Valley (R. o. levipes). The Salton Sea has also blessed me with some lovely meetings (R. o. yumanensis).

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      Clapper Rail Song

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