Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots (Rallidae)

Near Threatened

Ridgway's Rail (Rallus obsoletus)


French: Râle de Californie German: Ridgwayralle Spanish: Rascón de Ridgway

Rallus elegans var. obsoletus


, 1874,

San Francisco, California


In past, often treated as conspecific with R. longirostris, R. tenuirostris, R. elegans and R. crepitans, or with R. tenuirostris and R. elegans; more recently only with R. longirostris and R. crepitans; 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 being characterized by “relatively small body size (although larger than South American birds), bright rufous breast, and occurrence in saltmarshes”; the 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. Proposed races rhizophorae (Sonora) and nayaritensis (Nayarit) now generally included in yumanensis; magdalenae (Santa Margarita I) in beldingi. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • R. o. obsoletus Ridgway, 1874 – C California (mainly in San Francisco Bay), in W USA.
  • R. o. levipes Bangs, 1899 – coastal SC California to extreme NW Mexico (N Baja California).
  • R. o. yumanensis Dickey, 1923 – SE California, S Arizona and NW Mexico (W Sonora to Nayarit); also, one specimen from L San Felipe (Puebla), the first record from interior Mexico#R.
  • R. o. beldingi Ridgway, 1882 – S Baja California.
  • Descriptive notes

    35–40 cm; male 194–347 g, female 160–310 g (yumanensis). Large rail with long, slender, slightly decurved bill. Nominate race has forehead to nape dark brown,... read more


    Very similar to that of R. elegans. Both sexes advertise with fast series of loud “kak”... read more


    Salt and brackish marshes, particularly those with tidal sloughs; favours marshes with tall, dense... read more

    Food and feeding

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


    Breeds from mid Mar to Jul, peak late Jun, in W California (San Francisco Bay); one brood, occasionally two. Nest a platform or cup of... read more


    Chiefly resident. Race yumanensis formerly thought to be migratory, but radio-telemetry... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. Generally local and uncommon. Global population uncertain, but perhaps within the range 10,000–19,999 mature... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Christie, D.A. (2019). Ridgway's Rail (Rallus obsoletus). 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).