Rail, or Rallus, L, a genus of birds, comprising twenty-four species, of which the following are the principal :
1. The crex, or Land-Rail, a bird of passage, which appears in Britain in the spring, and migrates to warmer climates towards the end of autumn. Its bill is short, strong, and thick ; the legs are long, slender, and of an ash colour; the tail is short, and the belly of a clear white.—These birds are uniformly found among corn, grass, broom, or furze; where they deposit from twelve to twenty eggs during their residence in this country : they are remarkable for their aversion to take flight, trusting principally to the swiftness of their legs.
Land-rails abound in the Isle of Anglesea, in the Orkney, and in the Hebride Islands : their flesh is remarkably white, tender, and in great esteem at the tables of epicures.
2. The aquaticus, or Water-rail, frequents the sides of brooks, and damp watery places ; it has a long slender body, about 12 inches in length from the tip of the beak to the point of the tail; and weighs from four to five ounces. Its bill is long and thin ; the legs are of a dusky flesh-colour ; the whole body is beautifully variegated ; and, though their feet are not webbed, as those of most other water-fowl, they swim with considerable speed.
These birds continue throughout the year in England : like the landrail, they seldom fly, and are generally taken by means of dogs, eh are trained for the purpose of running them down.—The flesh of the water-rail is wholesome ; though inferior to that of the preceding species ; and, as this bird resorts to damp and marshy situations, it acquires a peculiar moorish taste.