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 Yellow Rail

Status in Michigan
Uncommon Transient

Early Spring Date

Late Fall Date
Note: Early and Late Dates are being researched.
Image Credits
Count totals in the NMB Databases for Yellow Rail.

Use the links below to view the Yellow Rail reports in the respective databases.
If there are zero sightings for a particular season, that database will return no results.

Active Database - Spring 2005
View Yellow Rail sightings.
Yellow Rail Archives Reports
Fall 2003 3
Spring 2003 0
Winter 02-03 0
Fall 2002 0
Summer 2002 0
Spring 2002 11
Winter 01-02 0
Fall 2001 0
Summer 2001 1
Spring 2001 0
Winter 00-01 0
Fall 2000 0
Summer 2000 2
Spring 2000 0
Winter 00-99 0
Fall 1999 0
Spring/Summer 1999 1

NMB Database
Seasonal Percentage Graph
For: Yellow Rail

Whitefish Point Bird Observatory
Active Database - Fall 2003
View Fall 2003 sightings.
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Official Seasonal Count Summaries for the Yellow Rail
Fall 1999-Spring 2002
Yellow Rail
Note: Some species will not be present in the WPBO archives and will return no records.

Search "The Birds of Michigan" text.

Home - Foreword - Preface - Introduction - Hypothetical List - Literature Cited

Historical Text
The Birds of Michigan - by: Norman A. Wood
Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 75

Cotunicops novehoracensis noveboracensis (Gmelin)
Yellow Rail

Transient, rare or generally overlooked; locally common in Calhoun and Schoolcraft counties. Two nest records (Oakland and Chippewa counties).

First listed for Michigan by Sager (1839: 416).

SPRING.-Arrival is sometimes reported in late March, but usually during the latter part of April and early May.

Lower Peninsula.-A specimen (U.M.M.Z.) was taken at Detroit on March 22, 2023 (see Taverner, 1908o; 327), and another collected (U.M.M.Z.) near there by A. Borck on April 22, 2023 (recorded by Swales, 19126; 100, 238). N. A. Wood and A. D. Tinker saw 1 near Ann Arbor on April 19, 1925; Trautman collected 1 (U.M.M.Z.) at Portage Lake, Jackson County, on April 28, 1935; and N. A. Wood (1922: 10) found 1 dead (U.M.M.Z.) in Berrien County on May 6, 1920. Walkinshaw (1939o; 228) has seen the species in Convis Township, Calhoun County, as early as April 18 (1937), and he collected 2 (U.M.M.Z.) there, 1 on April 25, 1937, and 1 on April 30, 1933. Walkinshaw (1939o; 228) also observed this rail in the Corey marsh, Clinton County, on April 24, 1938, and April 29, 1937. E. A. Hyer recorded it at Fish Point, Tuscola County, on May 7, 2023 (Walkinshaw, 1939a; 228).

Upper Peninsula.-Walkinshaw (1939a; 228) in 1937 saw 12 Yellow Rails on May 6 in Manistique Township, and 3 on May 10 in Doyle Town- ship, Schoolcraft County-the only spring records for this peninsula.

SUMMER.-It is not certain that the nest reported by Jerome Trombley (Barrows, 1912: 160) belonged to a Yellow Rail. The first positive Michigan nest record appears to be that of Walter E. Hastings, who on May 29, 1920, at Duck Lake, Highland Township, Oakland County, discovered and photographed a nest with 8 eggs. On a second visit to the site some days later, nest and eggs were found to have been destroyed. Although on neither occasion were Yellow Rails observed by Hastings, the distinctive markings of the eggs as shown in the photographs leave no doubt of the identification (PI. IV, Fig. 2).

The only other Michigan nest was found with 10 eggs (nest and 6 of the eggs in U.M.M.Z.) at Munuscong Bay, Chippewa County, by F. C. Gillett on June 13, 2023 (Walkinshaw, 1937o; 310, 311; 1939o; 229-30). Gillett wrote on June 15, 1934: "The birds seem to be common here, and I would conservatively estimate that not less than fifty pairs are nesting on the [Munuscong Bay State] Park marsh," and Walkinshaw (1939a; 227-37) stated that "on the nesting area birds were usually flushed in pairs." The following June (1935), however, none was found in the marsh.

The species has been noted (without breeding evidence) in summer in several other localities, such as Leoni Township, Jackson County (Walkinshaw); the Seney marshes of Schoolcraft County (abundant during May, 1937-Walkinshaw, 1939o; 227-37); 3 miles east of Shingleton, Alger County (some there in June, 1941, according to G. A. Ammann); and at Copper Harbor, Keweenaw County, where on June 9, 1931, a male (U.M.M.Z.) was collected-the first Upper Peninsula record (N. A. "Wood, 1933: 717). In a total of 136 rails (Walkinshaw, 1939a; 235-36) in 3 seasons (May or June, 1934 to 1937) in the Upper Peninsula, there were more Yellow Rails than Virginia Rails or Soras.

FALL.-There are apparently no fall records from the Upper Peninsula. Departure is reported in the south in late September and early October. Walkinshaw collected 2 specimens (U.M.M.Z.) in Convis Township, Calhoun County, on September 17,1936, and saw 1 there on September 22,1940. At Portage Lake, Jackson County, Van Tyne and T. D. Hinshaw collected 1 (U.M.M.Z.) on September 30, 1936, and L. D. Case and A. E. Staebler saw 2 on October 4,1936. A specimen (U.M.M.Z.) was collected near Kalamazoo by A. Fran´┐Żoise on October 1, 1890, and another (U.M.M.Z.) was taken at Ann Arbor, by J. Boyle, on September 29, 1908.

Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 75
The Birds of Michigan
By: Norman A. Wood
University of Michigan Press
August 28, 2023

Digitized by: Keith F. Saylor
[email protected]

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