Virginia Rails- up close and personal

Mike LanzoneBehavior, Science1 Comment

Throughout the year we get many rails and herons in the wetland in our yard, but seldom do we ever get to observe them at point blank range. The last few days several Virginia Rails have been around, and we got the opportunity to watch them in close detail as they fed. One bird in particular allowed Trish, Phoebe and I to sit on our bridge while it fed about 20 feet in front of us!

Virginia Rail, Somerset County PA. (Mike Lanzone)

Virginia Rail, Somerset County PA. Digiscoped with iPhone 5s  (handheld) and Leica Televid APO 82mm scope at 40X (Mike Lanzone)

Virginia Rails eat a variety of invertebrates, snails and sometimes even aquatic vegetation. If you have ever seen them eating, I have noticed that they feed so fast its really hard to tell what they are actually eating. In the two videos below I tried to capture some of the behavior of these rails, to take a closer look at how and what they are foraging on. The first video goes into slow motion after the first 20 seconds. Notice all the snails it is eating! At 1 minute 50 seconds it is very cool to watch it finding a caddis larvae and extract it from its house! The second video was recorded in 1080p, and is several clips strung together. This is at normal speed for comparison. Make sure you set the resolution at 720 for first and 1080 for the second for the sharpest video! Both videos were digiscoped using the iPhone 5s and the Leica Televid APO 82mm scope, at ~40X magnification.

  • Ian Gardner

    Great videos, Mike! Alex and I stopped by your place after the Big Sit and found the bird right away.