Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Clapper Rail, Rallus longirostris, photographed at Smith Point, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]

Image: Joseph Kennedy, 5 September 2008 [larger view].

Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/2000s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.


  1. #1 albatrossity
    September 16, 2008

    Clapper Rail

  2. #2 Hilary
    September 16, 2008

    Clapper Rail – the white eyebrow makes me want to say King Rail, but the wing is too dull. Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland, California, is the place to see Clapper Rails, by the by – nobody’s told the ones living there that they’re supposed to be rare and shy.

  3. #3 SimonG
    September 16, 2008

    Hey! I’m actually learning something here. 🙂
    Can’t say I actually recognise many of the birds – if it can’t be found in an English garden or waterway I probably wouldn’t – but I’m at least doing a fair job on the family these days.

  4. #4 Rick Wright
    September 16, 2008

    I’d be hard pressed to pronounce on this bird with the confidence my friends above enjoy. The bird shows no barring on the flank, and the feathers, particularly on the head and neck, are lax in structure: isn’t this a bird molting out of juvenile plumage? Young King Rails can be this dull and gray, and to my mind are usually indistinguishable from Clappers of the same age class.
    If those back feathers are new, then they do suggest Clapper Rail, but I’d be calling this one “large Rallus sp.”
    Maybe a wav file?

  5. #5 Smilodon
    September 16, 2008

    Clapper Rail

  6. #6 Wendy
    September 16, 2008

    I’m going with Clapper Rail, too – and I second Hilary’s comment about Arrowhead Marsh. I’ve had amazing sightings of Clapper Rails there. I’ve gotten some great photos, too, but I don’t think any of them are online in a place I can easily link.

  7. #7 Rick Wright
    September 16, 2008

    I’m happy to defer to greater experience and erudition, but I’m still eager to hear just h o w you’re distinguishing this bird from King Rail. Or are they a lot easier than I’ve come to think over the years?

  8. #8 JohnB
    September 16, 2008

    I’m tipping toward King Rail.

  9. #9 Bruce W
    September 17, 2008

    I’m leaning towards the Clapper Rail. The bill seems somewhat thicker and the legs are darker than the King Rail.

    Of course, the Audubon Field Guide doesn’t provide too many close and concludes its comments on the King Rail by presenting information that the King and Clapper Rails occasionally hybridize.

    Birding would be so much easier (but not nearly as fun) if they carried little signs.

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