© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, M. & W. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Spotted Crake

Porzana porzana

  • Family: Rails – Rallidae
  • Appearance: A small rail with a short, straight beak, greenish legs and pale yellowish patch undertail coverts. Most easily recognised by its distinctive call.
  • Size: Length 19–22 cm, wingspan 37–42 cm, weight 57–147 g.
  • Nest: In wet reed or sedge beds, carefully constructed with a roof-like structure made of sedges, and other parts made of grass, sedges, root fibres and hair.
  • Breeding: 8–12 eggs laid May-June, incubated by both parents for 18–21 days. Young able to fly within 25–35 days, but leave nest within a few hours of hatching and learn to find food for themselves within a few days.
  • Distribution: Nests in reed beds, wet sedge beds and moist meadows. Furtive by nature. A rare breeder in Finland, where population estimated at 500–1,500 breeding pairs.
  • Migration: Nocturnal. Flies south August–October, returning April–May. Winters in Africa
  • Diet: Small invertebrates, aquatic plants and their seeds.
  • Calls: A distinctive, harsh and piercing whistle, repeated at intervals of about a second for long periods during spring and early summer nights.

The Spotted Crake resembles the Water Rail, but is smaller, about Starling-sized, has a much shorter beak, and is a more uniform olive brown in colouring, with white dots scattered all over its plumage. Its flanks are streaked lengthwise, greyer colouring is visible on the throat and chest, and its undertail coverts are yellowish. Spotted Crakes have greenish legs, and their greenish beaks have yellowish-red bases and brown tips. Their irises are brown.

Spotted Crakes are masters of concealment. With luck, it may be possible to spot them furtively nipping through the undergrowth nodding their heads. They fly in a fluttering fashion with their legs trailing.

Two related crakes of very similar appearance, the Little Crake (P. parva) and Baillon’s Crake (P. pusilla), may be seen very occasionally in Finland. They are best distinguished from Spotted Crakes by their calls. The Little Crake’s call is a far-carrying, barking “kva”, which is initially repeated regularly, but then speeds up before ending in a descending stutter. Baillon’s Crake has a quieter and drier rattling call, reminiscent of the calls of the Garganey, the Marsh Frog or the Edible Frog.

Other species from the same family

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