Belongs to: crakes

Water rail Rallus aquaticus

Best time to see: all year

Key facts

Secretive marsh-dwelling bird, its pig-like squeal often revealing its presence

Habitat: dense reedbeds, swampy ditches and alder thickets

Widespread resident


Grey and brown waterbird with long red bill and pink legs; 28 cm

Often picks its way daintily through waterside vegetation, eating plants, invertebrates and amphibians

When startled, flies off weakly with legs trailing


In courtship the male feeds the female, who sometimes walks round him and rubs her bill against him

Nest is a cup of reeds hidden above water; 2 broods of 6–10 creamy eggs spotted reddish, April–July

© Tony Gunton