Of the four rail species found in Montana, we have identified three of them: the Virginia rail, the American coot, and the sora. The only remaining rail species on our list is the yellow rail. Yellow rails are rare in Montana and highly secretive. They are found only in the extreme northeast corner of the state (in the Medicine Lake Wildlife Refuge) and near Yellowstone Park. Road trip anyone?
According to the Montana Field Guide (2016), "The vocalization of the [yellow rail] species, by both sexes, is described as a series of clicking noises, usually in a 5-note pattern, "click-click-click-click-click", each click lasting for 0.1 second and spaced 0.1 to 0.25 second apart (Bookhout 1995). Other calls may include a ten note descending cackle, with three or four notes that sound like distant knocking on a door, soft croaking, or quiet wheezing or clucking notes (Sibley 2000). Although calling usually occurs during the night, with the males sometimes calling incessantly, diurnal activity has also been reported (Bookhout 1995). Young chicks and juveniles give various sounds described as 'wees' and 'peeps' (Savaloja 1981)."
Stopwatch in hand, we'll keep our ears open for clicks, cackles, door knocks, and croaks as well as wheezes, wees, and peeps.
Montana Field Guide. (2016). Yellow Rail — Coturnicops noveboracensis. Montana Field Guide. Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Retrieved on October 14, 2016, from http://FieldGuide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=ABNME01010