Water Rail Bird is a slender rail with long red legs, a long neck and a long red-and-black bill. The tail of Water Rail Bird is cocked as it walks, exposing a single triangular panel of buffy-white feathers. The upperparts are dark olive-brown from crown to tail, well marked with black feather centres that form long streaks along the back. The face, neck, breast and belly are a dark blue-grey, the flanks boldly marked with black-and-white vertical stripes. Typically seen as it emerges from reedbeds in the evening to forage along muddy edges.
Water Rail Bird is a wetland bird favouring shallow freshwater habitats with tall dense aquatic vegetation such as Phragmites reedbeds, with associated shallow margins of exposed mud or muddy breaks and dykes. It can adapt to a variety of smaller wetland habitats, provided cover is available, and wintering birds in Britain can be found on watercress beds, around pools and in ditches. It is usually very skulking, but in hard weather can be pushed into a typical habitats and locations, even leaving cover to walk around on snow or ice.
The commonest and the most familiar call often heard coming from a dense reedbed and sometimes in response to a loud noise like slamming car door. Typically of up 6 notes, rather explosive in delivery and ranging; from a hoarse and mournful groaning to a higher-pitched scream, it descends and trails off towards the end: "wheeah-wheeah-wheeah-wheeah-wheeoh...". This call of Water Rail Bird is used for advertising, display, alarm and other territorial purposes, and often by a pair calling antiphonally. The courtship call, used in spring by both sexes, is a long rhythmic series of short sharp notes "ghik-ghik-ghik-ghik", delivered in groups of notes that accelerate slightly, the female adding a short rolling trill to the end of her phrases, such as "eerrrrr'eeeew". A variety of other short grunts and squeals are uttered in different circumstances, such as "kik-kik-ke'weew" and "eevip" or "eeeyip".