By Morganthal Persival Wheysleywillow III
If you are looking to expand your “Big Year” list, the Sora is a great candidate worth considering.
Sora are the most common and widely distributed rails in North America, yet few individuals will ever see one. It a small, secretive bird with a triangular shaped body, deep rear end, gray body, short, bright yellow bill, strong legs and a short tail with white on the underside. Adults are 8-10 inches in length and weigh no more than 4 ounces, with black faces and bibs, which are missing in the immature, who display a buffy, brownish chest.
Sora breed in shallow wetlands and marshes throughout North America, nesting in well-concealed dense vegetation. They lay 10 to 12 eggs, sometimes up to 18, in a saucer-shaped nest built from marsh vegetation. Eggs hatch over several days, and both parents incubate and feed the young, who leave the nest when able to fly within a month.
Soro feed primarily on seeds and aquatic invertebrates, but have been sighted in grain fields during migration. These omnivores help check the populations of insects and invertebrates they eat, as well as plants they consume.
Survival of the species is a challenge for Sora because of the many predators that prey on them, especially their eggs and young which are highly vulnerable to snakes, raccoons, and many other animals.
Sora are uncommon transients that visit our region during summer and winter, and there have been sightings at Willow and Watson Lakes, Granite Creek and Granite Basin Lake, and the Upper Verde. (For sighting information th website eBird at: EBird.Org/ebird/map is a great resource.)
Considered a special treat by birders when these ellusive birds are sighted, they are often identified only by their unique call, a long descending whinny, starting quickly and then slowing: WHEE-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee, or an ascending koo-WEE. Call broadcasts greatly increases the chances of hearing and possibly spotting a Sora, since they will often investigate the source of a call.
So … should you have the good fortune to add this ecofriendly and beneficial bird to your “Big Year” savor the experience, you’ll have earned it!
Visit Prescott Audubon Society at PrescottAudubon.Org. Contact them at Contact@PrescottAudubon.Org.
A retired Capital Hill Veteran’s and Social Securty benefits advisor, Morganthal now enjoys the serene and pristine nature of Northern Arizona. An avid Audubon supporter, his love of nature is best framed by the words of Conservationist John Muir, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings: Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into flowers, the winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms, their energy and cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”