The most magical thing about Yesler Swamp is the way the birds here allow us into their secret kingdom. Yesterday, for example, I stood in the midst of a swarm of Pacific and Bewick’s Wrens, flitting here and there as they foraged for their favorite food: spiders. A pair of Downy Woodpeckers inched along a fallen branch, pecking now and then as they excavated grubs. Song Sparrows scratched through the leaf litter searching for seeds. The birds all knew I was there, but they were willing to accept me as just one more fixture of the swamp. The ultimate acceptance, though, came from the swamp’s resident Virginia Rail, who stepped out onto the trail at the northern tip of Yesler Cove and began calling. “KIDD-ick, KIDD-ick, kick, kick, kickkick” almost at my feet. He was loud, raucous, primeval, and he transported me far away from the humdrum world of deadlines to meet, taxes to pay, groceries to shop. For the space of a bird’s call, I lived in pure wonder. – Constance Sidles
FUN FACTS ABOUT VIRGINIA RAILS
• Virginia Rails live in marshes, usually freshwater. They breed here in summer and sometimes (though not always) overwinter as well.
• Virginia Rails have the ability to make themselves thin so they can slip between the stems of marsh reeds and cattails.
• Their forehead feathers are especially adapted to resist wear and tear from rubbing against rough stems as they push their way through the dense vegetation of marshes.
• Virginia Rails are very shy, more often heard than seen.
• They have long, downward curving bills that they use to probe deeply into mud as they search for worms, and insect larvae to eat.
• Virginia Rails make basket nests sometimes complete with canopies. They often make several nests as decoys but use only one in which to lay their eggs.
• Males court females by running around and around them with wings raised, bowing up and down.
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