Cover image for Rails : a guide to the rails, crakes, gallinules, and coots of the world
Rails : a guide to the rails, crakes, gallinules, and coots of the world
Taylor, P. B.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
600 pages : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL696.G876 T29 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Rarely seen and poorly known, rails can be found throughout the world, absent only from polar regions, completely waterless deserts, and mountains above the snow line. This secretive and intriguing family of birds occupies a diverse range of habitats, from forests to wetlands, grasslands, and even scrub-covered remote oceanic islands and coral cays. Barry Taylor and Ber van Perlo have described and illustrated 145 species of rails, including two that have only recently been described and eleven that are recently extinct.

The book, based on up-to-date references and on new observations, is the first to give comprehensive information on field identification (including voice), covering all species and races for which details are known. It is also the first to provide descriptions of the immature and juvenile plumages of many species. The authors provide a detailed summary of current knowledge of all aspects of rail biology and their often complex behavior, social structure, and family life. They explain how such apparently poorly flying birds can undertake intercontinental migrations and are such widespread and successful colonists of remote oceanic islands. They also discuss the remarkable ease and speed with which species on such islands have evolved into flightless forms in the absence of predators, a fact that has led to the rapid extinction of numerous island taxa following the arrival of humans. Rail habitats are fast disappearing, say the authors, and many rails become endangered before enough is known about them to plan effective conservation measures. The book provides information on distribution, status, habitat requirements, and current threats, and it gives conservation priorities for threatened species.

Published in association with Christopher Helm/A & C Black

Author Notes

Barry Taylor has written numerous scientific papers and other articles on rails and other birds. He is currently involved in conservation-orientated wetland and grassland research and survey work in Africa and in studies on the creation and management of wetlands for birds. Ber van Perlo has been a geographer and physical planner and now writes and illustrates books about birds, such as the Collins Ilustrated Checklist: Birds of Eastern Africa.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Taylor's volume, in a series of handbooks on particular families of birds, treats 133 extant and 12 extinct species within the Rallidae. The rails and their kindred are among the most secretive and fascinating of bird families. This book, like others in the series, is characterized by textual accuracy, uniformly high quality color illustrations, and thorough range maps. There is a 62-page introduction to the Rallidae that overviews their taxonomy, phylogeny, morphology, and ecology, 43 color plates, 406 pages of text detailing each species, and a lengthy bibliography. Each species account includes notes on identification, similar species, general description, measurements, geographic variation, molt, distribution and status, movements, habitat, food and feeding, habits, social organization, social and sexual behavior, and breeding and survival. In many cases some of the above categories are blanks, as essentially nothing is known. A range map is included. The color paintings are large, well reproduced, and very useful for identification. Any professional or serious amateur ornithologist with interest in rails and their kin will find this book essential. The book ranks as one of the best of the series. All libraries should have the entire series. General readers; professionals. J. C. Kricher Wheaton College (MA)