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king rail

king rail (Rallus elegans) [state endangered]
Photo © Alan Murphy Photography

Features and Behaviors

The king rail is about 15 inches in length (bill tip to tail tip in preserved specimen). This bird has rust-red feathers and a long, thin bill. A small white stripe is present over the eye. The back feathers have a bold black and tan pattern.

The king rail is a rare migrant and summer resident in Illinois. It is a very rare winter resident in the state. Spring migrants begin arriving in mid-April. Fall migration starts in late October. The species winters in the Gulf Coast states. The king rail inhabits cattail marshes or other areas with shallow water and many plants where it finds aquatic macroinvertebrates, plants, seeds and amphibians to eat.

Reasons for Concern

​Loss and degradation of wetland habitats continue to impact this species tremendously.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae

Illinois Status: state endangered, native