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Paint-billed Crake

Neocrex erythrops

The Paint-billed Crake, Mustelirallus erythrops, is a diminutive bird, measuring 18 to 20 cm in length and tipping the scales at a modest 40 to 70 grams. Its most striking feature is the bill, a vibrant palette of red and yellow, complemented by equally bright red legs. Both sexes share a similar appearance, with a brown crown, nape, and upperparts, including the tail. The throat is a stark white, transitioning to gray on the face, throat, and breast, while the flanks, belly, and vent boast a pattern of black and white bars.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify this elusive bird, look for its distinctive bill and leg coloration. The barred underparts and gray breast are also key characteristics to distinguish it from similar species.


The Paint-billed Crake is an adaptable bird, inhabiting a range of environments from lush reedbeds and marshes to drier pastures and rice fields. It can also be found in bushy areas and, notably in the Galápagos, humid woodlands.


This species is quite widespread, with the nominate subspecies residing in coastal Ecuador, Peru, and the Galápagos Islands. The subspecies N. e. olivascens has a broader distribution, found in Costa Rica, Panama, and across many South American countries. It has also been recorded as a vagrant in Trinidad and the U.S. states of Texas and Virginia.


The Paint-billed Crake is not known for regular movements but does exhibit vagrancy, suggesting potential migratory behavior. It is a secretive bird, often remaining hidden and not responding to playback.

Song & Calls

The crake's vocal repertoire includes a song that is a long, accelerating series of staccato 'kjek' notes, along with various calls such as frog-like, guttural buzzes, a soft purring, and a sharp 'twack'.


Breeding seasons vary by location, with the crake constructing a bowl nest of green grass, concealed in vegetation. Clutches typically contain three to seven creamy buff eggs with reddish blotches. Incubation lasts approximately 23 to 25 days.

Diet and Feeding

While not much is known about its diet, the Paint-billed Crake is known to consume invertebrates like Diplopoda and Coleoptera, as well as seeds. It forages in soil, leaf litter, and standing water, often venturing into open areas near dense cover at dawn and dusk.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Paint-billed Crake as Least Concern. Despite its large range, the population size and trends are not well understood, and no immediate threats have been identified. However, due to its secretive nature, the exact range and abundance are difficult to ascertain, and further research into its status, distribution, movements, and breeding is needed.

Paint-billed Crake Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Paint-billed Crakes on Birda

A map showing the sighting location
Rogger Valencia Monroy
06 Feb 2023 - 3:30pm

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