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Rakes and Crails

October 7, 2021

Crakes and rails are small, skulking birds that hang out in reed-beds and are hard to find. They should be in any location that has a muddy edge on shallow water with lots of reeds to shelter in. Like this Spotted Crake I observed in a wetland in Barham NSW.

Water bodies that have steep sides and no mudflats or reedbeds are not likely habitats, even though many people think lakes like that are more picturesque. Yea Wetlands has some suitable areas at times, and I was quite excited to see that someone had recorded sighting a Lewin’s Rail in March this year on eBird.org, complete with a photograph of the bird partially hidden by reeds. (You can check the records and photographs here.) Rails are twice as large as crakes which are tiny, sparrow-sized waders.

Next time I was down in the area, I could see nothing in the reed bed but I did hear a persistent call which I thought was the Lewin’s Rail. I got out my phone and recorded it.

When I played this back a couple of times, to my absolute delight, the bird responded then came to the edge of the river and I got some good views of it among the reeds. Alas, I had no camera.

Why are these birds called ‘rails’? According to the etymology dictionary, it is from an old French word “raler“, meaning ‘to rattle’ and reflects their calls. (Just as crake comes from the old Norse kraka because it croaks like a crow.) Based on the recording I made, I would not object to anglicising the name and calling it a Lewin’s Rattler.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lesley Ann Dalziel permalink
    October 8, 2021 9:14 am

    Or, as Agatha Cristie said, Cakes and Ale

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