by Zach McKenna
Have you ever been out on the water floating by a salt marsh estuary and hear a distinct clapping noise coming from in between the stems of cord grass? Once you hear this sound, you’ll always be able to identify it as the Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris). This salt-water marsh hen lives a secretive life, rarely seen, but often heard on our Eco Tours. During mating season, the males will call to the females with a sound similar to ‘claps’ or ‘clicks’. They are monogamous birds during the mating season, but once the babies hatch, the parents will split the brood to care for the young.
Clapper rails thrive in marshes that are large, close to other marshes, surrounded by a thick border, and that are fed by tidal channels. Clapper rails need plenty of room to forage and will eat whatever they can find and swallow often coming to the edge of the mudflats only at dawn and dusk. They rarely fly, but rather run throughout the long blades of dense marsh plants.
Due to an increase in agriculture, mosquito control, housing development, recreation, and polluted fresh water runoff, their salt marsh habitat is being destroyed and fragmented. This habitat fragmentation exposes them to predation and limits their food supply. It is our job as eco activists to fight the development of salt marshes and help reduce the pollution that is entering the waterways. For ways to help check out http://birds.audubon.org/species/clarai, and the next time your in a salt marsh estuary, keep your ears open, and if you’re patient and lucky, you might be able to catch a glimpse of this surprising, secretive bird.
Come spend some time with Zach and the team, great family fun St Augustine Eco Tours.