any of numerous marsh birds of the family Rallidae (order Gruiformes), generally any small rail (q.v.) in which the bill is short and conical. The name is chiefly European but can be extended to New World rails of this type. The most widespread genus is Porzana (13 species), typified by the spotted crake (P. porzana) found in Europe and eastward to Mongolia; in winter it reaches southern Asia and northern Africa. It is a brown bird 25 cm (10 inches) long with a light-spotted breast and buffy undertail. Its New World counterpart is the sora, or Carolina rail (P. carolina). The sora is about 23 cm (9 inches) long and grayish brown with black on the face and throat, with a short yellow bill. Other Porzana species are Baillon's crake (P. pusilla), occurring in parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand; the spotless crake (P. tabuensis), ranging from Australia to the Philippines; and the little crake (P. parva), a relatively common Eurasian form
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