[CT Birds] The King/Clapper Rail Conundrum

Christopher Loscalzo closcalz at optonline.net
Sun Jun 10 18:58:14 EDT 2018

I did some further reading and learned the following:  Male King and Clapper
Rails make very similar "kek" calls as their mating call to attract females.
The rate of making the calls tends to differ between the two species (they
are felt to be distinct species, even though they interbreed where their
ranges overlap), with the Clapper being faster (usually 4-5 keks/second) and
the King being slower (2-3 keks/second).  There is some variability though,
so the distinction is not foolproof.  But, a rapid kekking bird in a salt
marsh is almost certainly a Clapper Rail and a slow kekking bird in a
freshwater marsh is almost certainly a King Rail.  Similarly, the grunt
calls that both sexes make to communicate with one another in the marsh
tends to be more rapid paced in the Clappers and slower in the Kings.  The
kek-burr call that I heard repeatedly in the Q marsh yesterday, that my
limited knowledge and research suggested was unique to King Rails, is in
fact a call that is made by females of both species. Apparently, they make
this call when they've lost their mate and are trying to attract a new one.
The call is indistinguishable between the two species.  So, I will be
reclassifying the bird we heard yesterday as King/Clapper Rail, species.
Still a wonderful natural experience and it led to me learning something new
about birds.  Ours is a neverending learning experience!


Chris Loscalzo,


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