Rails

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Virginia rails and soras are the two rail species that can be hunted in Kansas. These species prefer wetlands with dense stands of cattail and bulrush for nesting, but frequently are found in higher-elevation portions of wetlands where grass or other less-robust vegetation is shallowly flooded. Virginia rails and soras nest in Kansas. During the nesting season, they primarily consume aquatic insects and other aquatic invertebrates. Seeds and animal matter are eaten in late summer and fall.

Rails typically are hunted in combination with snipe in the same habitats. Rails can use deeper water than snipe, but also are found in shallow water and on mudflats. Because seeds are an important part of the diet in late summer and fall, shallow-water areas with dense stands of seed-producing plants are prime rail hunting areas. Although rails don’t fly nearly as fast and evasively as snipe, hunting both snipe and rails together is like trying to adjust to a baseball pitcher’s fastball and changeup. Rails also compensate for their relatively slow flight by not remaining aloft for long.

Rail hunters need to be proficient in identification of the other look-alike species found in rail habitat. King, black, and yellow rails also occur in Kansas, but they aren’t legal to hunt. Of these nongame rails, kings are the most common and the others aren’t likely to be encountered when hunting. The king rail is similar in shape to the Virginia rail, but kings are about twice as large as Virginias.