Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) seasonal activity. From Trektellen.
Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) seasonal activity. From Trektellen.

Flight period

Most active through spring and early summer. Some calls (all?) probably relate to territorial behaviour. Can be heard in places with no well known history or presence, including over cities.


Scarce to moderately common. Often can be detected on multiple consecutive nights in spring.


Water Rails have three main call types:

1 – Trill

This call can be quite explosive with usually a strong burry trill. The call is usually arched, which can be heard as a rising and falling within the call, and makes it easy to separate from superficially similar Dunlin calls (which just descend in frequency). The amount of modulation varies.

Water Rail trill

2 – Chip series

A series of slightly grunted chip notes, often slowing down (becoming more widely spaced) towards the end. The number of chips and their spacing is variable. Little Grebe also gives pip notes but these are usually more widely spaced, usually precede the flight song (trill), and don’t have so much structure.

Water Rail chips

3 – Descending squeals

The familiar “bog pig” squeals heard from reed beds is also given in flight, as a short series of descending squeals.



Confusion species


Little Grebe