Rails & Crakes

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)

A not so common wide-open view of a Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus). Photo: Caroline Legg – Flickr.

Water Rail is a common bird of aquatic habitats throughout Ireland, where it usually remains hidden amongst dense, waterside vegetation. Luckily it is a very vocal species with a rich repertoire of vocalisations.

The most famous vocalisation is the pig-like series of “GRUEE – GRUEE – gruee – gruee gruee” notes primarily used as a territorial call, also referred to as “sharming”. These notes begin with gusto and gradually lose momentum to a hoarse whisper. Males and females can be identified, using these vocalisations with the male sounding lower-pitched and slower, in comparison to the female. In the following recording, it opens with a relatively high-pitched rapid sharming given by a female, followed by a noticeably lower-pitched, slower version, given by a male:

Another common series of vocalisations are the onomatopoeic “pip – calls”. These are often give in short succession over prolonged periods of time and may also relate to territoriality, because of the often lengthy bursts. As they are also sometimes given as single or short bursts they may also serve the purpose of a contact call.


Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus). Photo: Seán Ronayne

The Moorhen, sometimes referred to as Waterhen, in Ireland, is a common, fearless species of freshwater habitats where it feeds openly.

This species is quite vocal and most typically gives one of two explosive calls. One can be described as a loud rolling “krrrruck“, and the other a disyllabic “pee-tuu“. Both can be heard respectively in the following recording:

Moorhens also commonly call on nocturnal migration, or as they fly around searching for prospective partners/territories at night, in spring. This audio will be added as soon as we obtain it, hopefully in the coming weeks of spring.


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