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Coots Rails and Moorhens: Rallidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Most rails are solitary, meaning they live alone, although some can be found in pairs, usually male and female breeding partners, or in small groups. Some species, however, including most coots and some gallinules and moorhens, sometimes gather in large flocks during the nonbreeding season. The black-tailed native-hen, an Australian rail, can form flocks of as many as 20,000 individuals.

Breeding strategies vary across the rails. Many species are monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus), with one male mating with one female. Some species are polygamous (puh-LIH-guh-mus), meaning single males mate with multiple females. Other species are polyandrous (pah-lee-AN-drus), where a single female mates with multiple males. In some species, older siblings help their parents feed and care for younger siblings. Intraspecific brood parasitism is also common among the rails. This describes a strategy in which a female lays eggs in the nests of other females so that other individuals will feed and raise her young.

Many rails are territorial and will defend their territories from other individuals of the same species. To prevent serious injuries from actual fighting, territorial disputes between rails are decided using displays, characteristic postures or behaviors that help determine which individual would win in an actual fight.

Rails are shy, and generally stay in areas of dense vegetation. At night, they roost on the ground, hidden in dense vegetation, or, less commonly, in trees.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsCoots Rails and Moorhens: Rallidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Rails And People, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE