Rails and Crakes
Purple Swamphen
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae

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 terrestrial and most 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 vigourously 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— the Woodcock, for example, has colonised remote islands in the Pacific. Island species often become flightless, and many of them are now extinct following the introduction of terrestrial predators such as cats, rats and pigs. Particularly when the extinct species are counted,

Many reed bed 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”. American species are normally called rails irrespective of bill length.

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


The family Rallidae has traditionally been grouped with two families of larger birds, the craness 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.

The relationships with similar groups are shown below:

Eurasian Coot

    • Family Aramidae: Limpkin
    • Family Psophiidae: trumpeters
    • Family Rallidae
      • 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
      • Nkulengu Rail, Himantornis haematopus
      • Grey-throated Rail, Canirallus oculeus
      • Madagascar Wood-Rail, Canirallus kioloides
      • Swinhoe's Rail, Coturnicops exquisitus
      • Yellow Rail, Coturnicops noveboracensis
      • Speckled Rail, Coturnicops notatus
      • Ocellated Crake, Micropygia schomburgkii
      • 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
      • Chestnut-headed Crake, Anurolimnas castaneiceps
      • Russet-crowned Crake, Anurolimnas viridis
      • Black-banded Crake, Anurolimnas fasciatus
      • 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
      • Galapagos Rail, Laterallus spilonotus
      • Red-and-white Crake, Laterallus leucopyrrhus
      • Rufous-faced Crake, Laterallus xenopterus
      • Woodford's Rail, Nesoclopeus woodfordi
      • Bar-winged Rail, Nesoclopeus poecilopterus
      • Weka, Gallirallus australis
      • New Caledonian Rail, Gallirallus lafresnayanus
      • Lord Howe Rail, Gallirallus sylvestris
      • Okinawa Rail, Gallirallus okinawae
      • Barred Rail, Gallirallus torquatus
      • New Britain Rail, Gallirallus insignis
      • Buff-banded Rail, Gallirallus philippensis
      • Guam Rail, Gallirallus owstoni
      • Roviana Rail, Gallirallus rovianae
      • Slaty-breasted Rail, Gallirallus striatus
      • Clapper Rail, Rallus longirostris
      • 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
      • Brown-banded Rail, Rallus mirificus
      • Lewin's Rail, Rallus pectoralis
      • Auckland Rail, Lewinia muelleri
      • White-throated Rail, Dryolimnas cuvieri
      • African Crake, Crex egregia
      • Corncrake, Crex crex
      • Rouget's Rail, Rougetius rougetii
      • Snoring Rail, Aramidopsis plateni
      • Inaccessible Island Rail, Atlantisia rogersi
      • 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
      • Uniform Crake, Amaurolimnas concolor
      • Bald-faced Rail, Gymnocrex rosenbergii
      • Bare-eyed Rail, Gymnocrex plumbeiventris
      • Brown Crake, Amaurornis akool
      • Isabelline Bush-hen, Amaurornis isabellinus
      • Plain Bush-hen, Amaurornis olivaceus
      • Rufous-tailed Bush-hen, Amaurornis moluccanus
      • White-breasted Waterhen, Amaurornis phoenicurus
      • Talaud Bush-hen, Amaurornis magnirostris
      • Black Crake, Amaurornis flavirostris
      • Sakalava Rail, Amaurornis olivieri
      • Black-tailed Crake, Amaurornis bicolor
      • Little Crake, Porzana parva
      • Baillon's Crake, Porzana pusilla
      • Spotted Crake, Porzana porzana
      • Australian Crake, Porzana fluminea
      • Sora, Porzana carolina
      • Dot-winged Crake, Porzana spiloptera
      • Ash-throated Crake, Porzana albicollis
      • Ruddy-breasted Crake, Porzana fusca
      • Band-bellied Crake, Porzana paykullii
      • Spotless Crake, Porzana tabuensis
      • Henderson Island Crake, Porzana atra
      • Yellow-breasted Crake, Porzana flaviventer
      • White-browed Crake, Porzana cinerea
      • Striped Crake, Aenigmatolimnas marginalis
      • Zapata Rail, Cyanolimnas cerverai
      • Colombian Crake, Neocrex colombianus
      • Paint-billed Crake, Neocrex erythrops
      • Spotted Rail, Pardirallus maculatus
      • Blackish Rail, Pardirallus nigricans
      • Plumbeous Rail, Pardirallus sanguinolentus
      • Chestnut Rail, Eulabeornis castaneoventris
      • Invisible Rail, Habroptila wallacii
      • New Guinea Flightless Rail, Megacrex inepta
      • Watercock, Gallicrex cinerea
      • Purple Swamphen, Porphyrio porphyrio
      • Takahe, Porphyrio mantelli
      • Allen's Gallinule, Porphyrio alleni
      • American Purple Gallinule, Porphyrio martinica
      • Azure Gallinule, Porphyrula flavirostris
      • San Cristobal Moorhen, Gallinula silvestris
      • Tristan Moorhen, Gallinula nesiotis
      • 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
      • 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
    • Family Heliornithidae: finfoots and Sungrebe
    • Family Rhynochetidae: Kagu
    • Family Eurypigidae: Sunbittern
    • Family Cariamidae: seriemas
    • Family Otidae: bustards
    • Family Gruidae: cranes

See Also