Water Rail Rallus aquaticus   [Linnaeus, 1758]

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Order: Gruiformes Family: Rallidae
BTO Codes: WA, WATRA EURING No: 4070
Number in Britain: 1100 Territories (Summer)
Conservation Status:
European: Not a species of concern
Global: (Details)
Status in UK: (A)  Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
Subspecies: aquaticus recorded in Britain (of 4 subsp. in the world)
Length: 26 cm Wingspan: 42 cm Weight: M: 140 g   F: 110 g    
Scientific name from: L.: rallus=a rail and L.: aquaticus=water-living (from aqua=water)
World Distribution: Europe, n Africa, Asia
Habitat: Swamps & marsh
Diet: Omnivorous, but animal matter predominates, mostly in shallow water
TitBit: Water Rails emit a wide range of unlikely squeals, grunts and groans, ranging from 'squealing piglets' to the 'purring of contented squirrels'.  
Identification Tips:
  Images from IBC or search flickr
  Videos from IBC
  Sound from xeno-canto
Crossley ID photos

Population and Distribution

Population Trend: No population trend available
Distribution: Atlas Mapstore   
British Population Size:
    Summer: 1100 Territories in
    First Record: Recorded in Medieval times [Fossil evidence from Middle Pleistocene, c. 500,000 yr ago]
    Latest Survey: Musgrove, A. et al. (2013) British Birds 106:64-100
    Conservation Status: GREEN
   Previous Assessments: 2002-2007 AMBER     1996-2001 AMBER  
   Races of Concern: aquaticus GREEN
Habitat Occupancy (in the Breeding Season):
    No habitat data from BBS
Migration routes: Map of foreign ringing recoveries
European Population Size:
    Summer: 125 to 310 thousand pairs
Population Assesment from Birds in Europe
Distribution in Europe mapped by the EBCC Atlas
Listed on the Appendices/Schedules of: WBD(II*), Bern(III)
Survey Results: Results from BirdTrack

Breeding and Survival

Egg Size: 36 x 26 mm Egg Weight: 13.2 g (of which 7 % is shell)
Number of Nest Records: 2
Clutch Size: 6 - 11 eggs
Incubation: 19- 22 days   by the: Female (occ. Male)
Fledging: 20 - 30days as: Precocial, downy
First Clutches Laid: Unavailable
Number of Broods: 1/2
Number Ringed: Annual Totals
Adult Survival: No data
Juvenile Survival: No data
Age at First Breeding: 1 year Typical Lifespan: No data
Maximum Recorded Age: 8 years 9 months 30 days (set in 1996)
Read a summary of Ringing Recoveries


Ring Size: D (pulli E)
Wing Length Sexually dimorphic (male much larger than female)
Male: 126.3 ± 3.2 122 - 131 mm, N =217
Female: 116.0 ± 3.1 110 - 121 mm, N =204
Weight Sexually dimorphic (male much larger than female)
Male: 141.4 ± 18.62 102.0 - 172.0 g , N =186
Female: 112.0 ± 14.68 90.00 - 135.0 g , N =188
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Ringing Scheme data

Other Names

Gaelic: Gearradh-dubh-nan-allt Welsh: Rhegen y Dwr
Danish: Vandrikse Dutch: Waterral
Finnish: Luhtakana French: Râle d´eau
German: Wasserralle Hungarian: Guvat
Icelandic: Keldusvín Irish: Ralóg Uisce
Italian: Porciglione Norwegian: Vannrikse
Polish: Wodnik zwyczajny Portuguese: Frango-d'água
Spanish: Rascón Swedish: Vattenrall
Local Names: Velvet Runner, Skittycock, Sharmer

For More Information...

Books and Monographs:
   Taylor, B. & van Perlo, B. 1998 Rails Pica Press, Sussex [598.554 TAY]
See Also:
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Wikipedia entry
HBW account (subscription required)
BirdLife species page
Recent sightings and information from BirdGuides