Water Rail

The Water Rail or European Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) is a species of bird found across Europe and Asia. Its habitat is marshes and reed beds. Birds from northern and eastern areas are migratory and winter further south. They are permanent residents in the southern and western parts of their range.

The adult is 9 to 10.25 inches long. It has mainly brown upperparts and blue-gray underparts, with black barring on the flanks. Its body is flattened laterally to allow easier passage through reeds. The toes are long, the tail is short, and the bill is long and reddish. The legs are yellowish. The young are similar to the adults, but the underparts are beige-brown. Downy chicks are black, as with all rails.

Water rails are shy and secretive, especially in the breeding season, when they are more often heard than seen. They are noisy and have a variety of sounds including a pig-like squeal. In winter they are easier to spot, especially if freezing conditions push them to the edge of reed beds. It probes through mud or shallow water with its bill picking up food by sight. The diet is mostly insects and aquatic animals. Its nest is in a dry location in marsh vegetation where a female lays up to a dozen eggs.

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