Tuesday, 7 April 2015

B.O.T.D. Yellow Rail

Yellow Rail (Caturnicops noveboracensis)

Under a blanket of darkness, the Yellow Rail slips quietly through tall sedges, grasses and cattails, searching for food, This rather rare bird hide behind a cover  of dense, marshy vegetation by day and is most active at night. It is almost always encountered through its distinctive and repetitive call, heard along marsh edges in spring. The male's territorial call, generally heard only in complete darkness, is a unique, repetitive, five-note tik, tik, tik-tik-tik, easily imitated by tapping two stones together. But catching a glimpse of these marsh phantoms is the ultimate challenge. When standing motionless, the rail's tawny yellow and dark stripes blend in perfectly with the marsh vegetation. And when required to, this bird can make itself "as thin as a rail," its laterally compressed body allowing it to effortlessly slip through tightly packed stands of marsh vegetation. Its large feet, which help the bird rest atop thin mats of floating plant materials, adds to the Yellow Rail's strange appearance.

Agricultural expansion has claimed a large share of this rail's habitat in southern Canada, and concerns regarding how low overall numbers and continuing habitat loss throughout its breeding range has resulted in its recent designation as a species of special concern in Canada.

Cornell Lab: Yellow Rail
Lone Pine Publications: Birds of Canada