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Species Guide
A photo of a Russet-naped Wood Rail (Aramides albiventris)
Russet-naped Wood Rail

Russet-naped Wood Rail

Aramides albiventris

The russet-naped wood rail, also known as the rufous-naped wood rail, is a medium-sized bird with a robust build, characterized by its striking plumage and sturdy legs. Adults typically measure between 33 to 40 cm in length and weigh approximately 450 to 600 grams. Both sexes appear similar, with a thick dark yellow bill tipped in light green, a deep red eye, and legs and feet ranging from red to pink. Their plumage is a tapestry of colors: a slate gray adorns the forehead, crown, and hindneck, while a chestnut patch graces the back of the head. The back is a grayish olive, and the tail is black. A white chin and upper throat transition to gray sides of the neck, lower throat, and upper breast. The breast and upper belly are a pale tawny cinnamon, fading into a pale band that separates them from the black lower belly, vent, and undertail coverts. Juveniles, however, lack the white belly and instead have dark gray underparts with tawny flecks.

Identification Tips

When identifying the russet-naped wood rail, look for the distinctive chestnut patch on the back of the head, the pale tawny cinnamon breast, and the black lower belly. The thick bill and red to pink legs are also key features. Juveniles can be distinguished by their lack of a white belly and the presence of tawny flecks on their dark gray underparts.


This species thrives in a variety of environments, both wet and dry. It can be found in marshes, swamp forests, river and stream corridors, thorn forests, semi-evergreen forests, and mangrove forests, as long as dense cover is available.


The russet-naped wood rail is distributed from Mexico to Costa Rica, with five subspecies occupying specific regions. These include eastern Mexico, the Pacific slope of southern Mexico to southern Guatemala and El Salvador, the Yucatán Peninsula through Belize to northern Guatemala, the Caribbean slope of Honduras and Nicaragua, and northeastern Costa Rica.


The russet-naped wood rail is a permanent resident throughout its range, known for its secretive nature. It typically forages in dense vegetation but may also feed in the open, particularly along stream banks. It has been observed feeding in grassy areas near forests as well.

Song & calls

The vocal repertoire of the russet-naped wood rail is quite varied, described as a "rapid, crazed-sounding, rollicking, popping, and clucking series." It produces a range of sounds, from sharp shrieks and harsh cackles to growls when disturbed, as well as low grunting clucks. This bird is most vocal during twilight and nighttime.


The breeding season of the russet-naped wood rail is not well documented, but breeding-condition adults have been noted at various times throughout the year. Its nest is a shallow bowl made of sticks and plant fibers, often situated above water in a bush, vines, or a tree. Clutch sizes range from three to seven eggs, but the incubation period and time to fledging are currently unknown.

Similar Species

There are no similar species mentioned in the provided content.

Diet and Feeding

While the exact diet of the russet-naped wood rail is not fully known, it includes vegetable matter, snails, crabs, and even snakes. Its feeding habits are mostly secretive, but it can occasionally be seen foraging in more open areas.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the russet-naped wood rail as Least Concern, with a very large range and an estimated population of at least 50,000 mature individuals. Although the population is believed to be decreasing, there are no immediate threats identified. However, the mangrove and marsh habitats it prefers are among the world's most fragile and threatened.

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