Clapper Rail: Large, noisy marsh bird, gray or brown upperparts, vertical white-barred flanks and belly, buff or rust-brown breast. Bill is long, slightly decurved. Gray legs, feet. Feeds at low tide on mudflats or hidden in salt marsh vegetation. Flight is low and fluttering over short distances.
Range and Habitat
Clapper Rail: Breeds along Atlantic, Gulf, and California coasts; spends winters north to central California and New Jersey. Preferred habitats include coastal saltwater marshes.
Common in the East, the subspecies that inhabits California is endangered. They have never recovered from the hunting pressure of the gold rush era and have suffered tremendously from loss of habitat and non-native predators such as the Norway rat and feral cats.
In 1992 the estimated population of the California subspecies was only 240 birds. Due to efforts on behalf of the bird today they number over 1000.
The rattling call of the Clapper Rail is one of the most common sounds in the marshes. Nesting pairs enhance their pair bond by blending their clatter until they sound like one bird. Biologists refer to this is as a “duet”.
A group of clapper rails are collectively known as an "applause", "audience", and "commercial" of rails.