King Rail

King Rail

The King Rail is the largest North American Rail. Its mottled brown back and flanks help to camouflague it in the marsh. It has a long neck and legs and heavy bill.

Juveniles are similar but darker and with shorter bills.

  • Rallus elegans
  • Length: 15.0-18.9 in (38-48 cm)
  • Weight: 11.3-15.0 oz (320-425 g)
  • Wingspan: 19.7-20.5 in (50-52 cm)


King Rails are resident all year on the East Coast of the US but those that breed inland migrate to the coast for winter.

Habitat and Diet

You can find King Rail in marshes, both freshwater and brackish. They hunt for crabs and crayfish but will also eat insects, frogs, and small snakes or mammals.

King Rail calls:


Nests of King Rail are built on platforms in shallow water by the males from grass and vegetation. They may build a ramp to the water.

The female lays about 11 eggs which take three weeks to hatch. They care for the young for 2 months.

Fun Fact:

King Rails often call at night.