Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots (Rallidae)

Least Concern

Grey-necked Wood-rail (Aramides cajaneus)


French: Râle de Cayenne German: Cayenneralle Spanish: Cotara chiricote

Fulica Cajanea

Statius Müller

, 1776,

Cayenne, French Guiana


Form labelled as A. gutturalis, known only from a single specimen from Lima (Peru), is a poorly prepared specimen of present species. Subspecies avicenniae often considered of dubious validity; may be better synonymized with nominate, which exhibits considerable individual variation. Nine subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. c. mexicanus Bangs, 1907 – E Mexico (Caribbean slope S to Chiapas).
  • A. c. albiventris Lawrence, 1868 – Yucatán Peninsula (including Cozumel I) S to Belize and N Guatemala.
  • A. c. vanrossemi Dickey, 1929 – S Mexico (Oaxaca) to S Guatemala and El Salvador.
  • A. c. pacificus A. H. Miller & Griscom, 1921 – Caribbean slope of Honduras, and Nicaragua.
  • A. c. plumbeicollis Zeledon, 1888 – NE Costa Rica.
  • A. c. morrisoni Wetmore, 1946 – Pedro González and San José (Pearl Is), off S Panama.
  • A. c. latens Bangs & T. E. Penard, 1918 – Viveros and I del Rey (Pearl Is), off S Panama.
  • A. c. cajaneus (Statius Müller, 1776) – Costa Rica (except NE) to Colombia, E through Venezuela and Trinidad to Brazil, and S to N Argentina and Uruguay.
  • A. c. avicenniae Stotz, 1992 – coastal São Paulo, in SE Brazil.
  • Descriptive notes

    33–40 cm; 320–480 g. Sexes alike. Large wood-rail and only member of genus with entirely grey head and neck (with rufous or dark patch on occiput and grey... read more


    Very vocal, calling most often at dawn, dusk, and at night; often in chorus or duet. Commonest call... read more


    Swampy forest, forest streams and rivers, secondary growth and deciduous woodland; coastal swamps... read more

    Food and feeding

    In mangroves preys heavily on crabs; elsewhere takes molluscs, arthropods (including Diplopoda, cockroaches and locusts), frogs, seeds,... read more


    Mexico, breeding condition Jan, May; Costa Rica, Apr–Sept; Panama, Apr; Colombia, breeding condition Mar–Jun; Venezuela, Jul... read more


    None recorded, but records at 2300 m in Colombia probably represent wanderers from lower elevations.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Apparently still fairly common to common over much of its extensive range, although must be adversely affected by habitat destruction... read more

    Recommended citation

    Taylor, B. (2020). Grey-necked Wood-rail (Aramides cajaneus). 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 17 January 2020).