Scientific Name: Rallus Longirostris Obsoletus
The California Clapper Rail lives year-round in coastal wetlands and brackish areas around San Francisco, Monterey and Morro Bays, preferring those with growths of pickleweed, cordgrass and bulrush. This species requires shallow water and mudflats for foraging, with high vegetation nearby for cover.
This species is one of the largest rails , measuring 13-19 inches from bill to tail. It is characterized by its hen-like appearance, a long, slightly downward-curving bill, olive-brown upper parts, a cinnamon-buff colored breast, dark flanks crossed by white bars and white undertail coverts which are often exposed when the bird is agitated.
Along the coast, the rail preys on crabs, mussels, clams, snails, insects, spiders and worms. In higher marsh or mudflats, it pecks and scavenges from the surface. Salt glands allow this species to drink either fresh water or saltwater.
Loss of emergent wetland habitat has contributed to decline in numbers particularly over the past 40 years. Other factors negatively affecting this species are: pollution from urban run-off, industrial discharges, sewage effluent, low rainfall, lack of cordgrass for nesting; high tides which have caused nesting failure.
The Clapper Rail itself is subject to predation by the non-native red fox, feral cat and various native mammals. It has been listed as an endangered species, both at the state and federal levels, for more than 35 years.