Eastern water rail

   ›      ›   Eastern water rail - Rallus indicus.

The eastern water rail (Rallus indicus) belongs to the family Rallidae. These rail species are distributed in northeastern parts of Mongolia, Siberia and Japan. These rails migrate to India and southeast Asia for wintering. The eastern water rails are water birds, inhabiting wetlands, mangroves and marshes. Earlier Rallus aquaticus and R. indicus were grouped together and considered as subspecies of R. aquaticus.

Taxonomy of Eastern water rail

  • Scientific Name: Rallus indicus
  • Common Name: Eastern water rail
  • French: Râle à joues brunes; German: Asienwasserralle; Spanish: Rascón asiático;
  • Other names: brown-cheeked rail;
  • Family: Rallidae › Gruiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: Blyth, 1849
Rallus indicus is closely related to R. caerulescens and R. madagascariensis. Previously it was considered conspecific with R. aquaticus.


The eastern water rail are small birds measuring 25 to 30 cm in length and weigh 70 to 190 grams. The wingspan is 40 to 45 cm. The body is laterally flattened and well adapted for movement among reeds. The upper parts are brown and the belly is blue-gray. There is black-brown barring on the flanks. The beak is long and reddish. The legs and toes are long. The tail is short and the underside is whitish. There is a broad brown eye-stripe, differentiating it from western water rail. Their call is a sharp "kyu" sound.
Birds of India - Eastern rail - Rallus indicus
Indian birds - Eastern water rail - Rallus indicus
Birds of India - Eastern rail - Rallus indicus
Indian birds - Eastern water rail - Rallus indicus


These rails inhabit wetlands, dense mangroves, scrub jungles with water sources and marshes.

Feeding habits

The eastern water rails are omnivorous, feeding both on small animals and plant matter. These rail species mainly feed on terrestrial and aquatic insects and their larvae. They also feed on mollusks, shrimp and crabs. Seeds, grass, shoots of marsh plants, berries and buds also form part of their diet.


The eastern water rail breeds during March-June. They nest on the ground and the nest is made of dead leaves and stems of marsh plants. The nest is concealed among thick vegetation, close to water. These rail species are monogamous and highly territorial during the breeding season. The nest is built on raised ground and may contain 6 to 12 eggs. Though both the rail parents incubate the eggs, the female takes a major share in incubation. The food is brought to the nest for feeding the hatchlings.


The eastern water rail species are distributed in their breeding grounds in North Mongolia, East Siberia and North Japan. Wintering populations are found in northeast India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, southeast China, Taiwan, Korea and south Japan.

Movement and migration Patterns

The eastern water rail species are mainly migratory, wintering in northeast India, southeastern Asia, southern Japan, eastern China and northern Borneo. They migrate to the breeding grounds in the early summer and move to wintering grounds during August to December.

Conservation status and concerns

The eastern water rail global population has not been estimated owing to recent taxonomic splits and the overall population trend is unknown. Habitat loss due increased human activities in the wetlands and breeding gounds and the agricultural expansion in the wintering grounds are the main threats to the survival of these rail species.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these eastern water rail species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Rallus indicus
Species:R. indicus
Binomial name:Rallus indicus
Distribution:Mongolia, Siberia and Japan; winters in India and southeast Asia;
Feeding habits:feeds primarily on invertebrates, insects, worms, shrimp, crabs and aquatic insects; also feeds on seeds, grass, shoots of marsh plants and berries;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

Popular posts in Birds of India

1.Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/midassun/12631792785/
Image author: 老毛 | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
2.Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/midassun/12631792595/
Image author: 老毛 | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Current topic in Birds of India: Eastern water rail - Rallus indicus.
Contact State Tourism or travel agents for bird watching and wildlife tours.