Share your observations

Share your observations of plants or non-game animals with the Natural Heritage Inventory

Rare animals
Find rare and non-game animals.
Rare plants
Learn about plants on the Natural Heritage Working List.
Rare lichens
Discover Wisconsin's lichens.
Natural communities
Explore Wisconsin's natural communities.
Other features
Discover unique resources.
Eagle license plate

Help care for rare plants and animals by ordering an Endangered Resources plate.

Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
For information on Wisconsin's rare invertebrates, contact:
Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis)

Need a main photo for this animal



Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis), a State Threatened species, is a rare migrant as well as a rare summer resident in both the north and east of Wisconsin. Yellow Rails about 6-7 inches long, have short bills and are a deep tawny-yellow in color with dark stripes crossed by white bars. In flight, the yellow rail is the only rail with a white patch on the trailing edge of each wing. These birds lay their 8-10 pinkish eggs from mid-May to late July in nests that are woven cups of dead grass placed above the water on tussocks. Parents incubate the eggs for approximately 17 days and the following fledgling period is about 35 days long. Yellow Rail habitat is primarily extensive meadows of "wiregrass" sedge and sometimes bluejoint, with little or no shrub encroachment. The required avoidance period is May 1 - July 15.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Coturnicops noveboracensis in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1B
Global RankG4
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was compiled from publication ER-091.

Identification: About 7 inches. Short billed; deep tawny-yellow with dark stripes crossed by white bars. In flight, the Yellow Rail is the only rail with a white patch on the trailing edge of each wing.

Habitat: Occur primarily in extensive meadows of "wiregrass" sedge and sometimes bluejoint, with little or no shrub encroachment.

State Distribution: Rare migrant. Rare summer resident north and east. A map outlining Pre-1977 and 1997 to Present Distribution is available.

Diet: Diet includes: snails, beetles, grasshoppers, aquatic bugs, dragonfly nymphs, damselfly nymphs, spiders, crayfish, slugs, leeches, tadpoles, small fishes, arrowhead, smartweed, pondweed, bur reed, bristle grass, wheat, oats, bulrush, wigeon grass, and spike rush.

Clutch: 8-10 pinkish eggs; laid from late May through mid-June.

Incubation: 17 days. Fledging period is 35 days.

Nest: A woven cup of dead grasses; placed above the water, typically on tussocks.

Management Guidelines: Yellow Rail populations are currently threatened by their small size and isolation, and by threats to current and potential habitat, especially fragmentation, succession, and impoundment. Fire and water-level management that provide maintenance of extensive sedge meadows is critical.


No additional photos are available for Yellow Rail at this time. Please consider donating a photo to the Natural Heritage Conservation program.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Yellow Rail. Only natural communities for which Yellow Rail is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Yellow Rail. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Yellow Rail occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

Back to Top

Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

Back to Top

Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

Back to Top

Last revised: Thursday, December 22, 2022