Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots (Rallidae)

Least Concern

Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans)


French: Râle tapageur German: Klapperralle Spanish: Rascón crepitante

Rallus crepitans

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

Long Island, New York


In past, often treated as conspecific with R. longirostris, R. tenuirostris, R. obsoletus and R. elegans; more recently only with R. longirostris and R. obsoletus; but recent study#R indicates that each of these taxa merits recognition as a separate species, based largely on molecular evidence supported by morphological details, with present species intermediate in size, with the breast spanning a range of colours from very dull, silvery grey, to dull rufous, and breeding in saltmarshes, saltmeadows and mangroves; the (seemingly minor) differences are complex and require detailed evaluation both between and within current new species limits, but are provisionally accepted here in the light of genetic findings. Races grossi and belizensis sometimes lumped into pallidus; and leucophaeus into caribaeus. Proposed races manglecola (Antigua) and limnotis (Puerto Rico) included in caribaeus. Eleven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • R. c. crepitans J. F. Gmelin, 1789 – E USA from coastal Connecticut S to NE North Carolina.
  • R. c. waynei Brewster, 1899 – coastal S North Carolina to NE Florida.
  • R. c. saturatus Ridgway, 1880 – Gulf coast from SW Alabama to extreme NE Mexico (Tamaulipas).
  • R. c. pallidus Nelson, 1905 – coastal Yucatán, in SE Mexico.
  • R. c. grossi Paynter, 1950 – Quintana Roo (SE Mexico).
  • R. c. belizensis Oberholser, 1937 – Punta Ycacos Lagoon, in S Belize.
  • R. c. scottii Sennett, 1888 – coastal Florida (except NE).
  • R. c. insularum W. S. Brooks, 1920 – Florida Keys.
  • R. c. coryi Maynard, 1887 – Bahamas.
  • R. c. caribaeus Ridgway, 1880 – Cuba and Jamaica to Puerto Rico and Lesser Antilles E to Barbuda, also Guadeloupe and Martinique.
  • R. c. leucophaeus Todd, 1913 – I of Pines (SW Cuba).
  • Single individual recorded in NW Panama (Bocas del Toro) is thought to represent a hitherto undescribed form of either present species or R. longirostris#R#R.

    Descriptive notes

    c. 36 cm; male 287–395 g, female 236–331 g (crepitans), male 275–375 g, female 200–400 g (waynei), male 263–310 g, female 199–314 g (scottii), male... read more


    Very similar to that of R. longirostris and R. elegans. Both sexes advertise with... read more


    Saltmarshes, saltmeadows and mangroves, generally within close distance of a shoreline. Appears to... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds mainly on mussels, clams, arthropods, snails, worms and small fish. Opportunistic forager, taking items most readily available;... read more


    Season Mar–Aug (mainly Apr-Jun) in USA, saturatus from mid-Mar, nominate and waynei from early Apr, peaks in late Apr (... read more


    Primarily resident. N populations partially migratory. In winter, nominate race ranges S to Florida... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Appears to be common through most of range; scarce to rare and local in Lesser Antilles. Global population not assessed. Population... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans). 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 11 December 2019).