MOU listserv, Erika and I drove on Tuesday to the Old Highway 77 Bridge in the Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. We strolled out to the end of an elevated walkway that leds to an observation point in the marsh along the edge of the Minnesota River. At the observation deck, several birders patiently tallied birds. "Virginia Rail!" exclaimed one of our companions. "Where?" we asked in unison. "Right behind that first clump of reeds" came the reply. (How nice sharp eyesight would be again...) You can see the Virginia Rail feeding in the marsh in the center of the photo above. Look for its orange-red bill. Sometimes the ripples of water made as it walked across puddles located this secretive bird.
Conway 1995). Even when they are not molting, Virginia Rails usually run from danger.
Most field guides do not show Virginia Rails with bright bills like these. I assume this bright color indicates the rails are courtshiping. Usually to locate rails, you must listen for their grunting duets. This recording is courtesy of Thayer Birding Software, Birds of North America for Windows, Gold Edition. (Mac versions are also available.)