other similar Rails, the Virginia Rail is a rather common breeding bird in
South Dakota. Like other Rails, however, they are more often heard
than seen as they prefer thick marsh vegetation. They are often found
in conjunction with Sora.
Habitat: Uses a variety of shallow fresh- and
brackish-water habitats, provided dense cover is available. They will
also use saltwater marshes during the winter. During migration, they
have the odd tendency to occasionally show up in almost any habitat.
Diet: Eats a great many aquatic insects and insect
larvae. Also eats mollusks and crustaceans, earthworms, small fish,
and seeds of aquatic plants.
Behavior: Typically forages by moving through
wetland vegetation, plucking insects and other food items from the ground or
foliage. They will also often probe in mud or shallow water for food.
Nesting: June through early August
Migration: Summers throughout most of the western
U.S., the northern half of the eastern U.S., and southern Canada.
Winters along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts, as wells as locally in
the southwestern U.S., Mexico, and Central America.
Migration - Special Note: Birders
in the Black Hills area have recently made a very interesting discovery.
They have found Virginia Rails in at least 3 different locations north of
the Black Hills in the winter of 2003/2004, and now in subsequent
winters as well. Note that most of the literature shows them wintering
near the U.S. coasts, or in the extreme SW or SE part of the U.S., but
nowhere near South Dakota. It's a potentially important finding, and
certainly an interesting one.
Conservation Status: While still common in many areas, numbers
have declined as habitat has been destroyed.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Virginia Rail
eNature.com: Virginia Rail
Photo Information: July 4th, 2006 -- Near Tea in
Lincoln County -- Terry Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Virginia Rail photos.