A Piece Of Rail

Warning!  The photos in this post might be gross for some for some readers.  It's about a piece of bird (most likely a rail) that I found on a barb wire fence. One of the things that really surprised me about this year's Potholes and Prairie Bird Festival was the amount of flooding that occurred around Jamestown and is still causing trouble for the area.  All we heard in the news was about the Fargo flooding but there was still much more flooding going on in central North Dakota. It's all the more impressive to me that organizers were able to get the festival going this year despite the flooding making lodging difficult (not to mention what the flooding did to the organizers' personal residences) and the economy causing more people to tighten their belts in regards to travel.

But the flooding made for some great birding.  For example, American bitterns were seen all over by many festival participants.  Zeiss rep Steve Ingraham got some fun video of an attempted mating ritual between two bitterns (check out the males white shoulder patch action going on).

I went out with my buddy Katie for some birding and I noticed some fluff on a barb wire fence.  We pulled over and walked/hopped over the water filled ditch to get a closer look to see what it was.  It was a piece of bird.


I tried to pull it off to get a bitter look, but it was really hooked into the barb.  The general shape and size read "rail" to me.  I wondered what happened.  There was a marsh across the road, had the rail flown across and hit the top line and got stuck and died?  Then perhaps some predator or scavenger came by and ate part of the bird?  Barb wires can kill low flying birds as I learned at the Leks, Treks and More festival when we did the marking for the lesser prairie chickens.


The feet, the tail tip, the brown striping, and the state the bird piece was found in have narrowed it down for me to either Virginia rail or sora.  However, I just can't decide on which.


At first, I thought I had it figured out with the feet, I know that sora's have green toes and what was left of this bird had black toes.  However, if you check Virginia rail toes, those are pink.  The decomposition could have caused the toes to turn black.

I tried to see if I could find any images of rail vents to see if that would help my id, but could not.  This one may have end with "back half of rail."