Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots (Rallidae)

Least Concern

African Rail (Rallus caerulescens)


French: Râle bleuâtre German: Kapralle Spanish: Rascón cafre
Other common names: African Water Rail

Rallus cærulescens

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Closely related to R. aquaticus, R. indicus and R. madagascariensis. Monotypic.


Sub-Saharan Africa, principally from Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda to E DRCongo and Kenya and S to Cape of Good Hope. Status uncertain in W Africa, where recorded in Gambia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Central African Republic#R, NE Gabon and Congo#R, but apparently rare and erratic; occurrence in coastal Kenya requires confirmation.

Descriptive notes

27–28 cm; male 146–205 (180) g, female 120–170 (146)g. Unpatterned, deep vinous brown upperparts are unique character within genus. Sexes similar but female... read more


Common territorial call, given by both sexes, often in duet or chorus, is loud high trill winding... read more


Reedbeds and dense rank growth in permanent and temporary swamps and marshes, and beside lakes,... read more

Food and feeding

Worms, crabs, spiders, aquatic and terrestrial insects and their larvae, small fish and small frogs; also some vegetable matter, including... read more


Ethiopia, Aug; SW Zaire, “dry season”; Kenya, May–Jun; Malawi, Feb–Mar; Zambia, Jan, breeding condition May;... read more


No evidence for regular migrations. Most seasonal variations in numbers explained by dispersal of... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Regarded as widespread and locally common over much of main range, though undoubtedly under-recorded in many areas. Rare and erratic... read more

Recommended citation

Taylor, B. (2019). African Rail (Rallus caerulescens). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 15 December 2019).