Search for areas with damp soil and dense vegetation, often in salt marshes. What makes it even more difficult to spot is the birds prefer to run or hide rather than fly unless under extreme pressure, such as caused by a combine. Sora and Rail. Scout areas ahead of time around dusk or at night, when males may be calling. Range: Breeds from east to west coasts. Adults are brownish-yellow overall, mottled with dark streaks and thin white bars on the upperparts. Sora: This small rail has dark gray-brown upperparts with black-and-white streaks, gray breast and dark gray flanks and belly with white bars. Sega VS Kingdom Hearts! You can go to any state in the Southeast and see most of the same species. Wait and listen quietly at each location at least 20 minutes before moving on. Black rail. And it’s the yellow rail’s shyness that draws in birders, many of whom want to mark it on their “life list” of species they’ve observed. Now in its 10th year, the annual Yellow Rails & Rice Festival capitalizes on one of the holy grails of birdwatching while educating attendees about rice farms’ contributions to wildlife habitat and conservation. Klamath Marsh NWR, Oregon: Virginia Rail, Sora, Yellow Rail. A combination of lower human disturbance and greater seclusion often makes birds a bit less cautious at such sites, increasing the chance of seeing one in the open. It is illegal to use them for any threatened or endangered population, so unless you are a researcher with special permission, leave the singing to the birds. Peter and Kristi Keller of Sugarland, Texas, soaked in Berken’s message. They have a wingspan of 11 inches (28 centimeters). Ridgway's rail. Despite its abundance, it is not often seen: As with other rails, it spends most of its time hidden in dense marshy growth or wet meadows. He thanks Bill Eddleman, Jerry Tecklin, David Krementz, and Paul Sykes, without whose vast knowledge and advice this article would not have been possible. The birds are largely crepuscular, becoming most active around dawn and dusk, so time your searches for shortly before sunrise or a couple of hours before sunset. Wetlands are extremely sensitive habitats, and slogging through a marsh in search of rails can destroy the habitat their survival requires. A birder strolling through an area is unlikely to notice a rail in passing, because the bird’s primary defense is to freeze upon spotting a threat. Save over 25% and get all-access: print+iPad. With all this to keep in mind, do you have any hope of ever seeing a wild, living rail? Range: Breeds in northern California, southern Oregon, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and much of Canada. The Annual Yellow Rails and Rice Festival has been scheduled for October 30 through November 3, 2019. The group focused on the yellow rail because “it was a bird that was charismatic for bird watchers so it was a lure, and Louisiana doesn’t have any other type of (avian) lure like that,” Dittmann says. It has a dark-tipped yellow bill. Occasionally it will walk about in full view at the edge of a pond, delighting any birders who happen to be nearby. Focus on open gaps formed by creek channels, between thickets of cover, changes in dominant vegetation, and at the edge of open water. All bird watchers have to go to the lower Rio Grande Valley and Florida. The combination of agri-tourism with bird watching also makes the Yellow Rails & Rice Festival unique among other birding events, Dittmann says. In areas where spartina is harvested, watch for birds flushing in front of harvesters. Permits. Winters along California coast, from Mexico south to Peru, in Caribbean, and north to Virginia. King rail. This article is based on their advice. Breeds in southern states, along Mississippi River, and in isolated areas from Kansas to Ontario to Connecticut. They are 7 1/2 inches (18.5 centimeters) in length and weigh 1 3/4 ounces (50 grams). Sometimes heroes aren't born there made but did their creators make the right decision? Yellow Rails prefer dense, damp, grassy habitats. From there, Dittmann, Cardiff and the Berkens became friends and started talking about how they could mix rice farming and birding. Males and females have similar plumage, but females are slightly smaller. Asked which was better, the combine ride or seeing a yellow rail, she says, “I don’t know. A very small chickenlike marsh bird with rather long legs for its size, short neck, small head, and short, blunt bill. “Now we’re educated, and we’re going to make an effort to buy U.S. rice,” Peter Keller says. Use calling birds to help zero in on the best rail habitat in the marsh, and to refine your eye for picking likely spots. Sora (Porzana carolina) and the Virginia rail (Rallus limicola) typically visit Missouri during their spring and fall migrations. Purple gallinule. Somewhat erratic in occurrence on the breeding grounds: may be common at a given locale in wet years, scarce or absent in dry years. A descending whinny emanates from the depths of cattails and rushes, but the source of this sound rarely shows itself. With very little advertising, the festival has gained a following among bird watchers simply from word of mouth, and it typically sells out each year. During the very first combine pass, the three birders riding on the harvester got to see three yellow rails. Kelly Colgan Azar. The Yellow Rail and Saw-Whet Owl in Sonoma Co., Cal. On your quest for rails, never do anything that could jeopardize the survival of the bird you have come to enjoy. In particular, Sora has a yellow bill and Black Rail has a black bill. “Many of them will come away with a greater appreciation for what we do. Brazoria NWR, Texas: Virginia Rail, Sora, King Rail, Clapper Rail, Yellow Rail, Black Rail, 7. Your source for becoming a better birder. The strategies don’t have to doom you to hours of stiff knees from crouching silently in the swamp; simply take a folding camp chair to your location and relax while you wait. Seasons and Hours. Yellow rails are quite small and have a white patch on the trailing edge of the inner wing, more extensive than that on juvenile Soras. Clarence Cannon NWR, Missouri: Virginia Rail, Sora, King Rail, 5. Endangered populations such as California Clapper and Black Rails and Arizona and Oregon Yellow Rails are in particular need of friends and help, and a few hours a month can go a long way. Perfectly camouflaged in complex patterns of black, brown, yellow, and white, Yellow Rails run as quickly as rodents through dense marsh vegetation. Active calling frequently occurs in twilight or at night. Sora are by far the most common find, but attending a harvest can turn up any species, depending on the location and crop. Field marks: Gray cheeks, rusty underparts, and black and white bars on flanks. American coot. A piercing screech erupted from beneath the grass, and my breath locked in my chest. Low, weak and floppy flight over short distances with legs dangling. Similar to: Yellow Rail. Other rails, gallinules and coots. During harvest, surprising numbers of birds are flushed from fields as machinery removes the crops. Fog curled and rose from the marsh as the sun set. Yellow Rails prefer dense, damp, grassy habitats. The following morning it … They rarely take flight, but when they do they reveal white patches in the wing. Such opportunities are often posted at refuge visitor centers and on websites or can be found with a quick call to a refuge or local Audubon group. Attendees of the Yellow Rails & Rice Festival scope out birds in a newly harvested rice field — photos by Vicky Boyd. Even in daylight, one bird calling can produce a chain reaction, and each individual rail sounds off in turn. A descending whinny emanates from the depths of cattails and rushes, but the source of this sound rarely shows itself. Ridgway's rail. General Regulations. “We just joked about starting a festival around the bird and the whole harvest,” Dittmann says. Lower Colorado River NWR Complex, Arizona: Virginia Rail, Sora, Clapper Rail, Black Rail, 9. Sora: This small rail has dark gray-brown upperparts with black-and-white streaks, gray breast and dark gray flanks and belly with white bars. As it cut rice, the machine flushed out birds, including the coveted yellow rail. Rain is always a concern because it halts harvest. When and Where to Look The first requirement of successful rail watching is learning to identify suitable habitat. Males in the breeding season have a distinct yellow bill and are slightly larger but otherwise sexes are alike. Your strategy: The best way to find sites for Black Rails is to request information from local Audubon chapters, refuges, birding groups, and online forums. Winters in the South and Mexico. And besides, wading up to your thigh in swamp muck is an unappealing picture. “We’re excited about riding the combine,” chimes in husband Eddie. “In particular, our working rice fields provide food for millions of resident and migratory birds. In flight, their long wings have a pale trailing edge. This secretive brown-and-gray marsh bird is a Sora, but drab it is not. We will be searching for secretive marsh birds like the yellow rail, Virginia rail and sora. Feeds on seeds, grasses, insects and snails. Year-round in San Francisco Bay, southeastern California, coasts of Texas, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Described as “one of the most secretive birds in North America” by experts, the robin-sized yellow rail lives in marshy underbrush and frequents the second rice crop. White throat, buff breast, flanks, and belly are barred black-and-white. Where to watch: Similar to Yellow Rail but much more local. Virginia rail. They allow you to benefit from the knowledge of local guides and refuge personnel who know the area and birds the best. A tiny marsh bird that lives its life concealed by grassy vegetation, the Yellow Rail is one of the hardest birds to see in North America. Yellow Rail: Small rail with pale yellow-striped, dark brown upperparts. Also, note that Kings share many plumage similarities with Virginia Rails but are twice as big. Moist land that is cultivated for rice, hay, papyrus, or spartina can hold rails, especially in migratory periods.