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Buff-banded Rail Gallirallus philippensis
Buff-banded Rail Gallirallus philippensis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae
Vigors, 1825
Nesotrochis (extinct)
Diaphorapteryx (extinct)
Aphanapteryx (extinct)
Cabalus (extinct)
Mundia (extinct)
Aphanocrex (extinct)

The family Rallidae is a large group of small to medium-sized birds which includes the rails, crakes, coots, and gallinules. Nearly all members are associated with wetlands. There are exceptions, however, notably the Corncrake which breeds on farmland.

The most typical family members occupy dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps, or rivers. Reedbeds are a particularly favoured habitat. They are omnivorous, and those that migrate do so at night: most nest in dense vegetation. In general they are shy and secretive birds, difficult to observe.

Most species walk and run vigorously on strong legs, and have long toes which are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and be weak fliers, although nevertheless capable of covering long distances.

Island species often become flightless, and many of them are now extinct following the introduction of terrestrial predators such as cats, rats and pigs.

Many reedbed species are secretive, apart from loud calls, and crepuscular, and have laterally flattened bodies. In the Old World, long billed species tend to be called “rails” and short billed species “crakes”. North American species are normally called rails irrespective of bill length.

The larger species are also sometimes given other names. The black coots are more adapted to open water than their relatives, and some other large species are called gallinules and swamphens.


The family Rallidae has traditionally been grouped with two families of larger birds, the cranes and bustards to make up the order Gruiformes. The alternative Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, which has been widely accepted in America, raises the family to ordinal level as the Ralliformes.

Species and genera

  • Genus Atlantisia
    • Inaccessible Island Rail, Atlantisia rogersi
      Ascension Flightless Crake, Atlantisia elpenor (extinct)
      St Helena Crake, Atlantisia podarces (extinct)
  • Genus Nesotrochis (cave-rails)
    • Antillean Cave-Rail, Nesotrochis debooyi (extinct)
  • Genus Diaphorapteryx
    • Hawkins' Rail, Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi (extinct)
  • Genus Aphanapteryx
    • Red Rail, Aphanapteryx bonasia (extinct)
      Rodrigues Rail, Aphanapteryx leguati (extinct)
  • Genus Sarothrura (flufftails)
    • White-spotted Flufftail, Sarothrura pulchra
      Buff-spotted Flufftail, Sarothrura elegans
      Red-chested Flufftail, Sarothrura rufa
      Chestnut-headed Flufftail, Sarothrura lugens
      Streaky-breasted Flufftail, Sarothrura boehmi
      Striped Flufftail, Sarothrura affinis
      Madagascar Flufftail, Sarothrura insularis
      White-winged Flufftail, Sarothrura ayresi
      Slender-billed Flufftail, Sarothrura watersi
  • Genus Himanthornis
    • Nkulengu Rail, Himantornis haematopus
  • Genus Canirallus
    • Grey-throated Rail, Canirallus oculeus
      Madagascar Wood Rail, Canirallus kioloides
  • Genus Coturnicops
    • Swinhoe's Rail, Coturnicops exquisitus
      Yellow Rail, Coturnicops noveboracensis
      Speckled Rail, Coturnicops notatus
  • Genus Micropygia
    • Ocellated Crake, Micropygia schomburgkii
  • Genus Rallina
    • Chestnut Forest Rail, Rallina rubra
      White-striped Forest Rail, Rallina leucospila
      Forbes's Forest Rail, Rallina forbesi
      Mayr's Forest Rail, Rallina mayri
      Red-necked Crake, Rallina tricolor
      Andaman Crake, Rallina canningi
      Red-legged Crake, Rallina fasciata
      Slaty-legged Crake, Rallina eurizonoides
  • Genus Anurolimnas
    • Chestnut-headed Crake, Anurolimnas castaneiceps
      Russet-crowned Crake, Anurolimnas viridis
      Black-banded Crake, Anurolimnas fasciatus
  • Genus Laterallus
    • Rufous-sided Crake, Laterallus melanophaius
      Rusty-flanked Crake, Laterallus levraudi
      Ruddy Crake, Laterallus ruber
      White-throated Crake, Laterallus albigularis
      Grey-breasted Crake, Laterallus exilis
      Black Rail, Laterallus jamaicensis
      Junin Rail, Laterallus tuerosi
      Galapagos Rail, Laterallus spilonotus
      Red-and-white Crake, Laterallus leucopyrrhus
      Rufous-faced Crake, Laterallus xenopterus
  • Genus Nesoclopeus
    • Bar-winged Rail, Nesoclopeus poecilopterus (extinct)
      Woodford's Rail, Nesoclopeus woodfordi
  • Genus Gallirallus
    • Weka, Gallirallus australis
      New Caledonian Rail, Gallirallus lafresnayanus (possibly extinct)
      Lord Howe Island Rail, Gallirallus sylvestris
      Okinawa Rail, Gallirallus okinawae
      Calayan Rail, Gallirallus calayanensis
      Barred Rail, Gallirallus torquatus
      New Britain Rail, Gallirallus insignis
      Buff-banded Rail, Gallirallus philippensis
      Roviana Rail, Gallirallus rovianae
      Guam Rail, Gallirallus owstoni (extinct in the wild)
      Dieffenbach's Rail, Gallirallus dieffenbachii (extinct)
      Tahiti Rail, Gallirallus pacificus (extinct)
      Wake Island Rail, Gallirallus wakensis (extinct)
      Sharpe's Rail, Gallirallus sharpei (probably extinct)
      Slaty-breasted Rail, Gallirallus striatus
  • Genus Cabalus (sometimes included in Gallirallus)
    • Chatham Rail, Cabalus modestus (extinct)
  • Genus Rallus
    • Clapper Rail, Rallus longirostris
      • California Clapper Rail, R. l. brownii
    • King Rail, Rallus elegans
      Plain-flanked Rail, Rallus wetmorei
      Virginia Rail, Rallus limicola
      Bogota Rail, Rallus semiplumbeus
      Austral Rail, Rallus antarcticus
      Water Rail, Rallus aquaticus
      African Rail, Rallus caerulescens
      Madagascar Rail, Rallus madagascariensis
  • Genus Lewinia (sometimes included in Rallus)
    • Lewin's Rail, Lewinia pectoralis
      Brown-banded Rail, Lewinia mirifica
      Auckland Rail, Lewinia muelleri
  • Genus Dryolimnas
    • White-throated Rail, Dryolimnas cuvieri
      Réunion Rail, Dryolimnas augusti (extinct)
  • Genus Crecopsis (sometimes included in Crex)
    • African Crake, Crecopsis egregia
  • Genus Crex
    • Corn Crake, Crex crex
  • Genus Rougetius
    • Rouget's Rail, Rougetius rougetii
  • Genus Aramidopsis
    • Snoring Rail, Aramidopsis plateni
Giant Wood Rail
Giant Wood Rail
  • Genus Aramides
    • Red-throated Wood Rail, Aramides gutturalis (extinct, doubtful species)
      Little Wood Rail, Aramides mangle
      Rufous-necked Wood Rail, Aramides axillaris
      Grey-necked Wood Rail, Aramides cajanea
      Brown Wood Rail, Aramides wolfi
      Giant Wood Rail, Aramides ypecaha
      Slaty-breasted Wood Rail, Aramides saracura
      Red-winged Wood Rail, Aramides calopterus
  • Genus Amaurolimnas
    • Uniform Crake, Amaurolimnas concolor
  • Genus Gymnocrex
    • Bald-faced Rail, Gymnocrex rosenbergii
      Talaud Rail, Gymnocrex talaudensis
      Bare-eyed Rail, Gymnocrex plumbeiventris
  • Genus Amaurornis
    • Brown Crake, Amaurornis akool
      Plain Bush-hen, Amaurornis olivacea
      Isabelline Bush-hen, Amaurornis isabellina
      Rufous-tailed Bush-hen, Amaurornis moluccana
      White-breasted Waterhen, Amaurornis phoenicurus
      Black Crake, Amaurornis flavirostra
      Sakalava Rail, Amaurornis olivieri
      Black-tailed Crake, Amaurornis bicolor
      Talaud Bush-hen, Amaurornis magnirostris
  • Genus Mundia (formerly included in Atlantisia)
    • Ascension Island Rail, Mundia elpenor (extinct)
  • Genus Porzana (crakes)
    • Saint Helena Crake, Porzana astrictocarpus (extinct)
      Little Crake, Porzana parva
      Baillon's Crake, Porzana pusilla
      Laysan Rail, Porzana palmeri (extinct)
      Spotted Crake, Porzana porzana
      Australian Crake, Porzana fluminea
      Sora, Porzana carolina
      Dot-winged Crake, Porzana spiloptera
      Ash-throated Crake, Porzana albicollis
      Hawaiian Rail, Porzana sandwichensis (extinct)
      Ruddy-breasted Crake, Porzana fusca
      Band-bellied Crake, Porzana paykullii
      Spotless Crake, Porzana tabuensis
      Kosrae Island Crake, Porzana monasa
      Henderson Island Crake, Porzana atra
      Miller's Crake, Porzana nigra (extinct, doubtful species)
      Yellow-breasted Crake, Porzana flaviventer
      White-browed Crake, Porzana cinerea
  • Genus Aenigmatolimnas
    • Striped Crake, Aenigmatolimnas marginalis
  • Genus Cyanolimnas
    • Zapata Rail, Cyanolimnas cerverai
  • Genus Neocrex
    • Colombian Crake, Neocrex colombianus
      Paint-billed Crake, Neocrex erythrops
  • Genus Pardirallus
    • Spotted Rail, Pardirallus maculatus
      Blackish Rail, Pardirallus nigricans
      Plumbeous Rail, Pardirallus sanguinolentus
  • Genus Eulabeornis
    • Chestnut Rail, Eulabeornis castaneoventris
  • Genus Habroptila
    • Invisible Rail, Habroptila wallacii
  • Genus Megacrex
    • New Guinea Flightless Rail, Megacrex inepta
  • Genus Gallicrex
    • Watercock, Gallicrex cinerea
  • Genus Aphanocrex (formerly included in Atlantisia)
    • Saint Helena Swamphen, Aphanocrex podarces (extinct)
  • Genus Porphyrio (swamphens and purple gallinules)
    • Réunion Swamphen or Oiseau bleu, Porphyrio coerulescens (extinct, doubtful species)
      New Caledonian Swamphen, Porphyrio kukwiedei (extinct)
      Purple Swamphen, Porphyrio porphyrio
      Lord Howe Swamphen, Porphyrio albus (extinct)
      Marquesan Swamphen, Porphyrio paepae (extinct)
      North Island Takahē, Porphyrio mantelli (extinct)
      Takahē, Porphyrio hochstetteri
      Allen's Gallinule, Porphyrio alleni (sometimes placed in genus Porphyrula)
      American Purple Gallinule, Porphyrio martinica (sometimes placed in genus Porphyrula)
      Azure Gallinule, Porphyrio flavirostris (sometimes placed in genus Porphyrula)
      African Purple Swamphen or African Purple Gallinule, Porphyrio madagascariensis (sometimes placed in genus Porphyrula)
      Porphyrio mcnabi (extinct)
  • Genus Gallinula (gallinules)
    • Samoan Wood Rail, Gallinula pacifica (sometimes placed in genus Pareudiastes, possibly extinct)
      Makira Wood Rail, Gallinula silvestris (sometimes placed in genus Pareudiastes or Edithornis, possibly extinct)
      Tristan Moorhen, Gallinula nesiotis (extinct)
      Gough Island Moorhen, Gallinula comeri
      Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus
      Dusky Moorhen, Gallinula tenebrosa
      Lesser Moorhen, Gallinula angulata
      Spot-flanked Gallinule, Gallinula melanops
      Black-tailed Native-hen, Gallinula ventralis
      Tasmanian Native-hen, Gallinula mortierii
  • Genus Fulica (coots)
    • Mascarene Coot, Fulica newtoni (extinct)
      Red-knobbed Coot, Fulica cristata
      Eurasian Coot or Common Coot, Fulica atra
      Hawaiian Coot, Fulica alai
      American Coot, Fulica americana
      Caribbean Coot, Fulica caribaea
      White-winged Coot, Fulica leucoptera
      Andean Coot, Fulica ardesiaca
      Red-gartered Coot, Fulica armillata
      Red-fronted Coot, Fulica rufifrons
      Giant Coot, Fulica gigantea
      Horned Coot Fulica cornuta

Additionally, there are many species only known from fossil or subfossil remains that have not been listed here, such as the Ibiza Rail (Rallus eivissensis). See Late Quaternary prehistoric birds for these species.

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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