Monday, May 10, 2010

Sora Rail Sighting at Hagerman NWR

By Helen Petre

Photo by Michael Haight

On April 27, 2010, Grace and Michael Haight, volunteers at Hagerman Natural Wildlife Refuge, spotted a sora rail, Porzana carolina, a seldom seen bird on the refuge. Soras are small water birds, about 8 inches long, with a blue gray face. They have a short, yellow bill, perfect for seed eating, with black markings at the base of the bill. Sora Rails breed in freshwater marshes throughout much of North America, but typically north of Texas and Oklahoma.

Although they are common, Sora Rails are secretive birds that are more often heard than seen. Their call, a distinctive whinny, is often heard among the marsh grasses but the bird is seldom seen.

These birds are the explanation for the saying, “skinny as a rail”. Although the Sora Michael captured looks fat and round that is an illusion. Soras have collapsible rib cages and can squeeze to about the diameter of one inch to fit between the marsh grasses and thus forage without coming out into the open. Soras are the smallest rails in North America and only weigh about two ounces.

According to the Hagerman NWR Bird Check List, the Sora is "Occasional" (may be seen a few times during the season) in Spring and Fall, rarely seen (every 2 - 5 years) in Summer, and not listed for Winter. Hagerman has recorded 338 species of birds since its establishment in 1946; of these 292 are abundant to rare in occurrence, and are listed by season. Another 46 species are considered accidental, having been seen only once or twice.

For more information abouot Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, see, and for information about programs and activities at the Refuge, see

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