The adult Virginia Rail are mainly brown, darker on the back and crown, with orange-brown legs. They have long toes, a short tail and a long slim reddish bill. Their cheeks are grey, with a light stripe over the eye and a whitish throat.

Habitat and Distribution

Their breeding habitat is marshes from Nova Scotia to California and North Carolina, also in Central America and South America. Northern populations migrate to the southern United States and Central America. On the Pacific coast, some are permanent residents.


These birds probe with their bill in mud or shallow water, also picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects and aquatic animals.


The female Virginia Rail lays 5 to 13 eggs in a platform built from cattails and other plants in a dry location in the marsh. Both parents care for the young, who are able to fly in less than a month.

Calls and Songs

This bird has a number of calls, including a harsh kuk kuk kuk, usually heard at night.