Virginia Rail Identification Tips
(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)
General Information
- Fairly small, chunky, short-tailed, round-winged,
  ground-dwelling marsh bird
- Long, slightly decurved bill
- Most often seen walking, rarely flies
- Often flicks and cocks short tail while walking,
  exposing white undertail coverts
- Sexes similar

- Reddish bill
- Legs brown or orange
- Supraloral stripe and throat whitish
- Blue-gray cheeks
- Rust-colored breast and belly
- Dark crown and back, edged tawny brown
- Black and white barred flanks
- Chestnut wing

- Bill color duller than in adult
- Grayish face
- Whitish about foreneck and breast
- Gray-black hindneck, back and flanks
- Chestnut wing
- Barring on flanks indistinct

Similar species
Downy young Virginia Rails can be mistaken for Black Rails but have dark (not red) eyes, and lack spots on the back and barring on the flanks. King and Clapper Rails are much larger and have duller bills and less contrast between the cheek and underparts. Other rails have much shorter bills.
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