Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Clapper Rail - Rallus crepitans
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General Comments The Clapper Rail is, by far, the easiest rail to see in the state and is the most characteristic bird of the tidal salt marshes. Also, it is one of the few rails that regularly calls during daylight hours. It has remained a common to very common bird in such marshes for many decades. Because it is common all year, it is difficult to detect migratory movements; yet, the documentation of a number of birds inland from kills at TV towers or skyscrapers clearly shows that some birds not only migrate southward from the Northeastern coast but also cut across inland portions of the state, if only during the night, with little or no interest in landing until they reach coastal marshes.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
Coastal Plain Permanent resident along the coast (tidal marshes); casual migrant elsewhere. Common to very common, and widespread, in nearly all salt marshes along the coast. Less numerous, though present, in some tidal brackish marshes farther inland, such as along the mainland shore of Pamlico Sound and major rivers. Casual (six records) inland migrant in fall, late Aug to mid-Oct, with most records from Wayne. Accidental/casual (two records) in spring inland, on 17 Apr and 27 Apr. Peak counts: ?
Piedmont Casual to very rare transient. At least ten records: records from Raleigh on 13 Apr and 21 Apr (year not given in Pearson et al., 1959); 1 (specimen dead at TV tower), Raleigh, 28 Sep 1984; 1 (specimen dead at skyscraper), Charlotte, 26 Apr 2004; 1 (specimen), Beaverdam Reservoir (Wake), 21 Sep 1987; 1 juvenile photographed in High Point (Guilford), 29 Aug 2011; one juvenile taken in by a wildlife rehabilitator in Huntersville (Mecklenburg), 17 Sep 2011; one photographed at Jordan Lake (Chatham), 25 Aug 2015; one photographed at Maple View Farm (Orange), 20-22 Sep 2015; and one that survived a window collision in downtown Raleigh, 21 Apr 2016.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips The species is easily heard calling at dawn or dusk, and sporadically during the day and night, in most any tidal marsh. To see them, look mainly at low tide, as the birds walk out briefly onto the mudflats. At very high tides, they can be flushed by walking the edge of the water.
Attribution LeGrand[2016-12-12], LeGrand[2016-06-01], Howard[2014-07-31]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.
NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

View NatureServe distribution maps for Rallus crepitans