Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots (Rallidae)

Least Concern

Spotted Rail (Pardirallus maculatus)


French: Râle tacheté German: Fleckenralle Spanish: Rascón overo

Rallus maculatus


, 1783,

Cayenne, French Guiana


Sometimes placed in genus Rallus. Races appear to be distinctive, and differences between them are also apparent in juvenile plumage. Racial identity of Panama population uncertain; some illustrations suggest that it belongs in nominate, with which it has sometimes been placed#R; further study required. Possible race inoptatus (W Cuba) included in nominate. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. m. insolitus (Bangs & Peck, 1908) – Northern Spotted Rail – Mexico to Costa Rica.
  • P. m. maculatus (Boddaert, 1783) – Southern Spotted Rail – W Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Trinidad; Colombia E to the Guianas and E Brazil, and S to NW Peru, E Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.
  • Also occurs in Panama, race unknown (perhaps nominate#R#R).

    Descriptive notes

    25–28cm; male 148–219 (189)g, female 130–190 (156) g, unsexed 140–198 (171)g. Sexes alike; female probably slightly smaller. Differs from all other... read more


    Loud, repeated, rasping, groaning screech, usually preceded by grunt or pop, “g'reech” or “pum-... read more


    Inhabits marshes, including those predominantly of Typha or Polygonum, swamps,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Earthworms, adult and larval insects (Coleoptera, Hemiptera, Diptera and Odonata), and other invertebrates; small fish; also pondweed ... read more


    Cuba, late summer to early autumn, at least to Sept; Hispaniola, breeding condition Jun; Trinidad, Jun–Aug; Costa Rica, breeding... read more


    None recorded, but may show widespread dispersal or vagrancy. In Surinam, one entered house at... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Locally distributed; in past often regarded as uncommon to rare, but locally common in Zapata Swamp (Cuba), Costa Rica, Colombia and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Taylor, B. (2020). Spotted Rail (Pardirallus maculatus). 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 26 January 2020).