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Species Guide
A photo of a Ridgway's Rail (Rallus obsoletus)
Ridgway's Rail

Ridgway's Rail

Rallus obsoletus

The Ridgway's rail (Rallus obsoletus), named to honor the esteemed American ornithologist Robert Ridgway, is a bird of modest size, akin to a chicken. It is predominantly found along the Pacific coast of North America. This species, a member of the rail family Rallidae, is characterized by its long, downward curving bill and a plumage that is grayish brown with a pale chestnut breast. A distinctive whitish rump patch is also notable. The Ridgway's rail is a creature of the brackish tidal marshes and is known for its infrequent flights.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Ridgway's rail, look for its long, decurved bill and the unique coloration of its plumage. The combination of grayish brown feathers with a pale chestnut breast and a conspicuous white patch on the rump is a telltale sign of this species.


The Ridgway's rail has a strong affinity for emergent wetlands dominated by pickleweed and cordgrass, as well as brackish emergent wetlands where bulrush is also present. It thrives in the upper end of tidal sloughs and along the ecotone between mudflats and higher vegetated zones.


This bird is primarily found from the San Francisco Bay Area down to southern Baja California, with some populations in the Gulf of California. Notably, the largest population resides in the San Francisco Bay.


The Ridgway's rail is most active during the night and twilight hours, known as nocturnal and crepuscular activity. It forages by probing and scavenging the surface while walking, and it seeks out mudflats or very shallow water for feeding, always with taller plant material nearby for protection during high tides.


Breeding season for the Ridgway's rail occurs from mid-March through August, with a peak in late June. Nest building commences by mid-February. The nests are constructed low, sometimes among plant roots, and the eggs are purple-spotted buff in color. Clutches range from four to fourteen eggs, with an average of 7.6. Both parents share incubation duties, which lasts between 18 to 29 days. The hatching success rate is around 38%.

Similar Species

The Ridgway's rail was once considered a subspecies of the clapper rail, indicating its close relation and potential for confusion between the two.

Diet and Feeding

An omnivorous bird, the Ridgway's rail's diet includes clams, crabs, mussels, and occasionally small rodents and birds. It retrieves its food by probing and scavenging the surface while walking.

Conservation status

The Ridgway's rail is currently listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Ridgway's Rail Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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