Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Sora - Porzana carolina
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General Comments The Sora is the least shy of the six rails in the state and is the one most often seen in freshwater marshes. Though it nests southward sparingly to Virginia, there is essentially no evidence yet that it nests in North Carolina; however, there are scattered records in summer. Though not hard to find in migration, Soras mostly leave the state in winter, but it does winter in most coastal counties, presumably in smaller numbers than the Clapper, King, and Virginia rails. Soras almost exclusively occur in fresh marshes and wet grasslands, but they do occur in slightly brackish marshes.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S3N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Winter resident and transient near the coast, but farther inland mainly a transient. Fairly common in spring and fall along and near the coast and in suitable marshes in the Tidewater zone; uncommon in midwinter in these areas. Rare to uncommon migrant, and rare winter visitor, farther inland. Mostly late Aug to mid-May. There are at least three Jun-Jul records from coastal areas (Sunset Beach and North River Marsh in Carteret), but there is no suggestion of breeding. Peak counts: 34, along NC 12 at Cedar Island NWR (Carteret), during a period of high water following Hurricane Matthew, 9 Oct 2016; 30, Mackay Island NWR (Currituck), 30 Sep 2012; 20, Wilmington, 20 Oct 1959.
Piedmont Transient, with a few winter records. Mostly rare to uncommon (records fairly scarce, but easily under-reported) across the province. Mainly early Apr to mid-May, and mid-Aug to early Oct; a few winter records for Dec and Jan, but not a regular winter resident. Of interest was one at Tanglewood Park in Forsyth from spring to the first week of Jun 2008. Peak counts: 9, Harris Lake (Wake), 23 Apr 2016; 9 at the same place, 22 Apr 2017; 8, Greensboro, 29 Sep 1956; 5, Jordan Lake, 1 Oct 1988.
Mountains Transient, with one winter record; one record suggestive of breeding. Generally rare, to perhaps locally uncommon at low elevations; mainly Apr and May, and mid-Aug to Oct. At least one adult, and one apparent juvenile, were seen on several dates in Jul 2017 at Valle Crucis (Watauga); however, a photo was obtained only of an adult, and thus confirmation of nesting is lacking. One heard calling just before dawn near Ivestor Gap (Haywood), at 5800 feet, on 14 Jun 2014 defies explanation, though it should be considered as a late migrant. One audio-recorded at a pond on Shortoff Mountain (Burke) on 4 Mar 2023 was very early for a migrant, not to mention at an odd site. Peak counts: 10+, Beaver Lake at Asheville, 7 Oct 2007; 6, Hooper Lane (Henderson), 21 Sep 2009.
Finding Tips During Apr and early May, and again in fall, the Sora can be heard in many fresh to slightly brackish marshes. The descending whinny, the "ker-WEE", and the "keek" call can all be heard from such marshes. It is the easiest of the six rails in the state to flush by walking through marshes. They can sometimes can be seen walking along the edges of marshes, but because they do not often frequent salt marshes, which can have expanses of flats at low tide, they are not often seen more than a foot or two away from the cover of cattails and other marsh vegetation.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-08-09], LeGrand[2023-03-09], LeGrand[2020-04-18]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.