The Rouget’s Rail is common on the western and southeastern highlands, but its presence is not so obvious as that of some other endemics. Once one is able to recognize the bird’s calls, one well appreciates how common this rail is. It has two calls which are useful in identification: one, a piercing alarm note, a “dideet” or “a di-dii”, and the other, a display call, “wreeeee-creeuw-wreeeee-creeliw”. This Rail mainly lives at higher elevations of up to 4,100 meters (13,500 feet) where it inhabits small pockets of grass tussock and wet hollows with plenty, of cover; it is a characteristic bird of the moorlands of Ethiopia.
Like other rails and crakes, the Rouget’s Rail skulks through and around the grass tussocks, probably searching for aquatic insects, crustaceans, small snails and seeds. This endemic, slightly larger than many of its rails-like relatives, is tame compared with most rails, and at times simply stands in all open area where it is easily observed. Normally, however, one gets only a fleeting glimpse of the bird as its moves quickly through the tall grass, characteristically flitting its tail upward and showing the white undertail coverts. The flashes of white – on and off, so to speak – are indeed obvious and often draw the attention of the observer to the bird for the first time.
Both male and female have similar russet-colored plumages, tile immature is slightly lighter in color. This rail sometimes lives in family parties of three to ten. It seems not to be so nocturnal in activity as once thought. Rouget’s Rail nests from April through October; the nest is a shallow cup of grass placed in tussock grass. In one clutch a rail lays as many as eight eggs, brownish-cream colored with reddish-brown splashes and lilac-grey undermarkings. The nestling is yellow-brown with black along the sides of the face, its neck is russet, its crown, bill and legs are black.