You Can't See Me

The Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis) is an extremely secretive ground dwelling bird that is difficult to observe in the wild. Its somber cryptic coloration is the rail’s primary protection against predation. Because the rail rarely leaves heavy cover, it is considered a rare and elusive “get” for birders. Serious birders can spend their whole lives trying to track down this sparrow-sized rail. One of the biggest advantages to volunteering at the Wildlife Center is that unusual animals can be closely observed. In addition to viewing the animal in question, the idiosyncratic behavior seen in the wild is often very evident during rehabilitation. It is amazing to watch a generic hatchling develop into a quirky nestling and juvenile or an injured bird begin to flip its fish into the air so that it can then be snatched from the air head first. Preferring to hide in dense inaccessible wetland brush and grass, the Yellow Rail is hard to flush. The rail can move soundlessly beneath the brush, thereby not revealing itself. Brief glimpses in flight usually aren’t enough for accurate identification before it quickly drops back to ground to hide. One exception is during rice harvesting when combines will flush rails into flight. The voice however is quite loud and distinctive; they are more often identified by the voice which sounds like two stones being tapped together which is repeated four to five times (tic-tic tic-tic). Despite the short rounded wings and tail, that make lifting into flight and short flights more difficult, the Yellow Rail is a strong and fast flyer that migrates from its breeding grounds in Canada to wintering grounds along the Gulf Coast, around Florida and up to North Carolina. The largest [...]