In a hammock strung between a few stalks of marsh grass and lifted just a few inches over dark water, gray-spotted eggs wait to hatch into soras, small members of the rail bird family. During the summer, the soras dine on shrimp and rice--well, wild rice and sometimes a few crustaceans or even spiders. At the change of seasons, the small and plump birds, which spend most of their time running through marsh grasses rather than flying, take to the air under the cover of night to migrate.
The song and call of the soras are almost frog-like and add to the music of the marsh. Hear wonderful recordings at Cornell's All About Birds site.
There is only a small patch of North America where soras spend their time year-round: in freshwater marshes in portions of Central and Northern California and Nevada. So we were fortunate to see a winter sora come out of some marsh grasses, lured by some seeds dropped by a bird walk leader at the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival. My photo below does not even begin to evoke the deep brown color of the bird's feathers. And my daughter loved the bird's feet, not webbed like a duck, but almost spidery, like the delicacy soras sometimes eat.
See Joyce Cory's Birding the Central Coast blog for an account of "Easy Birding" at Cloisters Park, Morro Bay, CA, the trip that my daughter and I were fortunate to attend.
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