Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots (Rallidae)

Least Concern

Eastern Water Rail (Rallus indicus)


French: Râle à joues brunes German: Asienwasserralle Spanish: Rascón asiático
Other common names: Brown-cheeked Rail

Rallus indicus


, 1849,

Lower Bengal


Closely related to R. caerulescens and R. madagascariensis, and until recently considered conspecific with R. aquaticus, but differs in its broad brown vs no or vestigial eyestripe (2); whiter preocular superciliary with markedly darker brown crown (ns[2]); more extensive white on throat (ns[2]); underparts paler grey with brown tinge, especially on breast (2); bold black bars on undertail-coverts (2); markedly different voice, song being a “cranking, rhythmic series of identical strident, metallic yet musical, upslurred SKRINK, SKRINKvs “a single braying, squealing, pig-like SKREEEr that descends near end”#R (3). Although more research on geographical variation in call structure across Eurasia (mainly subspecies korejewi in C Asia) desirable, lack of response of aquaticus to complex calls of indicus in playback experiments suggests that vocal differences are of biological significance#R. Moreover, recent phylogeographical analysis revealed that E Asian population was strongly differentiated from W & C Asian and European ones, with genetic distance between these two groups more than 3%, and the split estimated to have occurred c. 534,000 years ago#R. Monotypic.


N Mongolia and E Siberia (upper R Yenisey and middle R Lena) to Manchuria, Sakhalin and N Japan; winters from E Bengal and Assam, Myanmar, N Thailand and N Laos E to SE China and Hainan, Taiwan, Korea and S Japan.

Descriptive notes

c. 23–29 cm; 75–190 g. Present species differs from R. aquaticus in having broad brown eyestripe (aquaticus sometimes has vestigial one), whiter preocular... read more


Markedly different from that of R. aquaticus. Song a “cranking, rhythmic series of... read more


Inhabits mainly freshwater marshes, swamps and wet fields; on Japanese offshore islands found among... read more

Food and feeding

Feeds primarily on animal matter, especially small insects, molluscs, worms and the like, supplemented by vegetable matter (seeds). Details... read more


Laying from Apr–May. Nest a cup made from dead leaves and stems of marsh plants, well concealed on ground, near or in water, in thick... read more


Largely summer visitor to breeding grounds. Present in N Japan May–Oct, and winters in S Japan (S... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Has reasonably large range, in many parts of which its status is unclear. Appears to be uncommon throughout Japan. Formerly regarded... read more

Recommended citation

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Eastern Water Rail (Rallus indicus). 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).