Alternate Title

Observations on the Food and Food Habits of Clapper Rails (Rallus longirostris Boddaert) from Tidal Marshes Along the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States

Document Type



The feeding habits of five nominal subspecies of clapper rails (Rallus longirostris Boddaert) collected in tidal marshes along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States are compared. Data on the food from the stomachs of 183 rails were analyzed and the earlier literature critically reviewed. During the warmer months (May through early fall), crabs, predominantly Uca spp., comprised the major part of the food items found. Limited data on a few rails collected during late fall and winter, when Uca spp. are not usually available, indicate that snails then become a major part of the clapper rail’s diet during that part of the year. Earlier studies, which describe the food or feeding habits of clapper rails, are reviewed and the food habits and trophic relationships of some other tidal marsh consumers are discussed. Data from this and previous studies indicate that clapper rails are opportunistic omnivores, and occupy a relatively broad niche within tidal marsh ecosystems. A comparison of available data of the food of five clapper rail subspecies of the eastern United States indicates no distinct differences in their feeding behavior. Differences in the kinds of food eaten appear to simply reflect the types of marsh habitat (fresh, brackish, polyhaline) or geographical location (temperate, subtropical, tropical) in which a particular clapper rail population occurs. The food habits of the king rail are compared with those of the clapper rail and problems concerning the taxonomic status of the “subspecies” of Rallus longirostris are briefly discussed.

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