Water Rail - Rallus aquaticus


Smaller and distinctly slimmer than the Moorhen, the Water Rail is a highly secretive inhabitant of freshwater wetlands. It has chestnut-brown and black upper parts, grey face and underparts and black-and-white barred flanks, and a long red bill. Difficult to see in the breeding season, it is relatively easier to find in winter, when it is also more numerous and widespread.

Identification difficulty

Inland wetland. Look along reed beds and well vegetated margins.

When to see it

All year round, although numbers are higher in winter when many birds arrive from continental Europe.

Life History

These birds probe with their bill in mud or shallow water, also picking up food by sight. They eat insects, seeds, berries and even smaller birds and rodents.

UK Status

Widely but thinly distributed as breeding birds across the UK, but absent from upland areas. Most abundant in eastern England and suitable habitat along the south coast.

VC55 Status

An uncommon winter bird and bird of passage, rarely breeding in Leicestershire and Rutland.

be our species champion

Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map