Clapper Rail

Hey guys, welcome back. Today is the next rail of this series; the clapper rail. Rails are secretive wading birds that are right at home in very dense vegetation near water. They are shaped kind of like small herons crossed with chickens. The clapper rail is found only along the Atlantic coast. It used to be more widespread, but in 2014, was split into three species; Ridgeway’s rail (of the southwest), the mangrove rail (of South America), and the clapper rail (of the Atlantic.) In appearance, they look very similar to the smaller Virginia rail; being overall brown and gray with a long orange bill and large feet.

Despite NYC being within the clapper rail’s breeding range, the bird rarely showed up in the city proper. One year, one was spotted in the Ravine of Central Park. It hung around for a week or two, but only ever made a couple of appearances. It stayed in the vegetation along the water, below the second cascade of the Loch. It was fairly reliably seen in late afternoon/early evening and even then all you ever really saw was the head. I remember the first time I saw it, that was all I could see. It was like that scene in Jurassic Park where Muldoon is hunting the velociraptors while Ellie is trying to get to the breakers to turn the power back on and we only see the partial face of the raptor he’s watching.

Being found along the Atlantic coast has given this bird some cool adaptations. Sometimes their eggs become submerged due to the tides. These eggs will usually still hatch. Additionally, the clapper rail has special glands that enable them to drink salt water, one of very few bird species in the world that can! Next up, we head back to the world of sparrows. See you then!

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