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Porzana carolina

Length: 8 - 10 inches Wingspan: 14 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Chunky body, short yellow bill, black face and throat, dark brown back.

Sora - Porzana carolinaAs is the case with most of the Rails, Sora are often quite difficult to observe due to their preference for thick marshy vegetation.  They are one of the most common of Rails, and are usually found in most extensive cattail marshes in South Dakota.  Unlike the long-billed Rails, their short bill prevents them from probing mudflats for small animals.  Instead, they feed heavily on seeds, other vegetative matter, and insects.


During the breeding season, Sora can be found in a wide variety of freshwater marshy habitats, including wetlands, river and pond edges, and damp meadows.  They will inhabit saltwater marshes as well during the winter.


Feeds heavily on vegetative material, especially seeds and wild rice.  Also feeds on aquatic insects, snails, small crustaceans, and spiders. 


Walks slowly through wetland vegetation, plucking food items from the surface of the water, from vegetation, or from the ground.  Will also occasionally probe in soft mud with its bill for food items.


June through August. The nest of a Sora is constructed in dense vegetation at the fringes of a cattail marsh. The nest is anchored to vegetation above any water line, and is primarily constructed of cattails/bulrush stems. The female initially builds a platform for her eggs, starting to lay eggs while she continues construction on her nest. She will lay 8 to 11 eggs, with both parents helping to incubate them. The eggs hatch about 18-20 days.


 The most commonly heard vocalization starts with a note or two before beginning a long descending whinny that's decreases in pace towards the end. They also have a piercing two-syllable call with the second note higher in pitch.


Summers throughout much of Canada and the northern two-thirds of the United States.  Winters along U.S. coastlines, in the far southern portions of the U.S., and points south.

Interactive eBird map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Sora sightings

Similar Species:

The species most likely to be confused with a Sora are some small Rail species.

Virginia Rail - Rallus limicola Virginia Rail - Rallus limicola Virginia Rail - Rallus limicola
Virginia Rail Virginia Rail Virginia Rail

Conservation Status:

Generally widespread, but local declines have been noted due to loss of freshwater marshes.  However, they are found across a very broad geographic area, are quite common in parts of their range, and overall populations are strong and relatively stable. The IUCN considers the Sora to be a species of "least concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

April 18th, 2018 - Lincoln County, South Dakota - Terry L. Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Sora photos.

Audio File Credits:


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Range Map - Sora
South Dakota Status: Common summer breeding resident in suitable habitat throughout the state.

Additional Sora Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos

 Sora 1 - Porzana carolinaSora 2 - Porzana carolinaSora 3 - Porzana carolinaSora 4 - Porzana carolinaSora 5 - Porzana carolinaSora 6 - Porzana carolinaSora 7 - Porzana carolinaSora 8 - Porzana carolinaSora 9 - Porzana carolinaSora 10 - Porzana carolinaSora 11 - Porzana carolinaSora 12 - Porzana carolinaSora 13 - Porzana carolinaSora 14 - Porzana carolina