Light-Footed Clapper Rail

Light-Footed Clapper Rail

Scientific Classification

Common Name
light-footed clapper rail
Genus Species
Rallus longirostris levipes

Fast Facts

The light-footed clapper rail is a long-legged wading bird with large feet, a long, slightly down-curved bill and a short tail that is often cocked upwards.
35.6–40.6 cm (14–16 in.)
227–398 g (8–14 oz.)
Feeds mainly on a variety of invertebrates such as crabs, snails, insects, worms, and mussels. Also occasionally eats fishes, tadpoles, plant matter and possibly mice.
Clutch Size
Averages 6–9 eggs
Fledging Duration
Approximately 21 days
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 1 year
Life Span
Approximately 2–4 years; light-footed clapper rails at SeaWorld have lived for up to 10 years.
Found along the California coastline from Santa Barbara to the California-Mexico Border and into northern Baja California, Mexico
The light-footed clapper rail is a rarely seen inhabitant of coastal marshes
Global: No data
Regional: Estimated at fewer than 600 individuals for the regional population of southern California
IUCN: No data
CITES: No data
USFWS: Endangered - added to USFWS Endangered Species List in 1970

Fun Facts

Clapper rails are crepuscular – or more active at dawn and dusk. One way to census clapper rails is to listen for the duets of breeding pairs. Mated pairs duet more often in the evening and slightly less often during the morning hours.

Ecology and Conservation

This subspecies was added to the USFWS Endangered Species List in 1970. With less than 300 breeding pairs left in the wild, the light-footed clapper rail is one of the most endangered birds in California.

In a 2003 census of southern California coastal wetlands, 23 subpopulations of light-footed clapper rails were detected. All subpopulations have been through recent genetic bottlenecks.

Habitat loss due to development and degradation is the primary factor in the light-footed clapper rail population decline. Predation on clapper rails by non-native species such as red foxes, rats, and domestic cats also poses a major threat to subpopulation numbers in some areas. Natural predators of light-footed clapper rails include red-tailed hawks, northern harriers and peregrine falcons.

SeaWorld San Diego has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Chula Vista Nature Center and a group of independent biologists to develop a light-footed clapper rail captive propagation protocol for a Captive Breeding and Release Program. SeaWorld contributes to propagation efforts by incubating and hand-rearing clapper rail eggs and chicks. As of 2003, more than 15 viable eggs and 60 young rails that were raised at SeaWorld and the Chula Vista Nature Center were successfully transferred into four target subpopulation areas in an effort to increase the genetic variability and numbers of light-footed clapper rails.


Terres, J.K. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. New York. Wings Books. 1991.

Zembal, R. and J.M. Fancher. "Foraging Behavior and Foods of the Light-Footed Clapper Rail". The Condor. 90:959-962. 1988.

NatureServe. 2003. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 1.8. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available