Saturday, 15 October 2011

African rail

Rallus caerulescens

Photo by Callie de Wet (Oiseaux)

Common name:

Order Gruiformes
Family Rallidae

This African species is occurs from Ethiopia, south through Uganda, Kenya, southern D.R. Congo, Tanzania, eastern Angola and Zambia, and into Namibia, northern Botswana, southern Mozambique and large parts of South Africa.

These birds are 28-30 cm long and weigh 160-170 g.

The African rail inhabits permanent and temporary swamps and marshes often at the edge of lakes, pools, rivers and streams, and also occurs in seasonally wet sugar-cane plantations and paddy-fields adjacent to natural marshes. It requires shallowly flooded areas with mud and floating vegetation for foraging, and shows a preference for habitats lined with reedbeds or dense species-rich vegetation with channels and runways linking patches of more open growth.

These birds do most of their foraging in mud or shallow water along the edges of reedbeds, taking worms, crabs and crayfish, aquatic and terrestrial adult and larval insects, spiders, small fish, small frogs and some vegetable matter including seeds.

African rails are monogamous, solitary nesters and can breed all year round, but with a peak in September-February. They breed in seasonally inundated grasslands and sedge meadows, building a shallow saucer of leaves, sedge stems, bulrushes and grasses, typically concealed within or between grass or sedge tufts, usually over water. The female lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for around 20 days. The chicks are precocial, leaving the nest soon after hathcing, but only become fully independent 42-56 days after hatching.

IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and is described as uncommon to locally common. The population trend is difficult to determine because of uncertainty over the extent of threats to the species, but the African rail is not considered threatened at present.

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