The California Ridgeway’s Rail (formerly Clapper Rail) or Rallus longirostris obsoletus is one of the most endangered birds in California.
Santa Venetia Marsh Open Space Preserve is a fragile salt water marsh ecosystem in North San Rafael. This wetland is situated in a habitat migration corridor and hosts a variety of shore birds, including the endangered California Clapper Rail.
The Ridgeway’s / Clapper Rail habitat, which is marshland, has been severely reduced by the influence of humans in the Bay Area. Clapper rails hide in marshes, for example at the Santa Venetia Open Space Preserve and the Santa Margarita Island.
Clapper rails are almost never seen but often heard. In the marshes you can catch the distinctive call all year round, which is a series of clacking or grunting notes. If you are very lucky you might even see one.
The Clapper Rail has been described as looking like a small chicken (approx. 14 inches tall) with a long beak. The flanks are striped and the tail is rather short.
What do Clapper Rails eat? Crustaceans and invertebrates, some small vertebrates, and seeds.
The species is dependent on tidal wetlands, which have decreased over 75% from the historical extent in San Francisco Bay.
But there is good news as well: according to a 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Report detections of Clapper Rails at 26 sites in San Pablo Bay (Pt. San Pedro/Pt. San Pablo to Carquinez Bridge) increased 16%,from 225 (range: 207 to 243) in 2008 to 260 (range 219 to 299) in 2009.
The Gallinas Creek complex holds the largest known Clapper Rail population in San Pablo Bay, and in recent years detections increased +20%.
Watch and listen to a Clapper Rail:
If you want to help protect Clapper Rails in Marin County, please contact Gallinas Watershed Council.
The Clapper Rail Study Team based in Southern California has volunteer members that help observe rails, trap and band, search for nests, do call counts, all in an effort to help rail recovery.
Learn more about endangered animals in the Gallinas Watershed.