Family Rails, Gallinules, Coots (Rallidae)

Least Concern

Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola)


French: Râle de Virginie German: Virginiaralle Spanish: Rascón de Virginia

Rallus limicola


, 1819,

Pennsylvania, USA


Thought to be closely related to R. semiplumbeus and R. antarcticus; latter sometimes considered a race of present species. South American form aequatorialis often treated as a separate species (with meyerdeschauenseei as a subspecies). Proposed W USA race zetarius (of which pacificus is a synonym) is included in nominate. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • R. l. limicola Vieillot, 1819 – Virginia Rail – S Canada and W, C & NE USA; winters from SW Canada and E Great Lakes through S USA to Mexico.
  • R. l. friedmanni Dickerman, 1966 – volcanic belt of CS Mexico and extreme S Mexico to C Guatemala.
  • R. l. aequatorialis Sharpe, 1894 – Ecuadorian Rail – extreme SW Colombia, and Andes of Ecuador.
  • R. l. meyerdeschauenseei Fjeldså, 1990 – coastal Peru (Trujillo S to Arequipa).
  • Descriptive notes

    20–25 cm; male 64–124 (94)g, female 67–80 (74)g. Sexes alike, female smaller. Much smaller than R. longirostris and R. elegans, with... read more


    Territorial advertising call of male a series of loud, rapid “kid kid kidic kidic”... read more


    Freshwater marshes with stands of robust emergent vegetation, e.g. rushes, sedges, Typha... read more

    Food and feeding

    Earthworms, molluscs, crayfish, amphipods, many insects (including Hymenoptera) and their larvae, small fish, frogs and small snakes; also... read more


    North America, Apr–Jul; Ecuador, chick/juvenile Aug. Monogamous; pair-bond maintained only during breeding season, when territorial.... read more


    Most North American populations migratory. Migrants arrive on breeding grounds in USA Mar–May... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). In USA still locally common but has suffered considerable habitat reduction as wetlands have been lost to agriculture and to urban,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Taylor, B. (2019). Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola). 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).