In its breeding plumage, the sora's throat and face are black, with a short, yellowish bill. The breast and nape of neck are gray. The back is mottled brown and the belly displays black and white barring. Immature and non-breeding plumages are plainer and buff colored with no black on throat or face. While in this plumage, the throat is white and the breast is light brown. The legs of P. carolina are yellowish green. The tail is usually held erect while walking and flying. Sexes are alike
The sora occupies a freshwater wetland habitat throughout its range; it also uses salt marshes while overwintering. The preferred habitat provides considerable cover for breeding soras, and consists mostly of freshwater wetlands with stands of cattail, sedges, and other tall wetland plants
The sora (Porzana carolina) occupies much of temperate North America, ranging (in the west) as far north as the Northwest Territories, to the southern extremes of Arizona and New Mexico. The breeding range of P. carolina narrows in the east, occurring from Canada's Maritime provinces south to Maryland, USA.
Diet consists mainly of seeds, insects and snails. Seeds are obtained from sedges, grasses or other wetland plants. Snails and insects are picked from ground surface, or by probing soft mud and vegetation with its bill.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 9,800,000 kmē. The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population size criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. less than 10,000 mature individuals in conjunction with appropriate decline rates and subpopulation qualifiers), even though the species is described as 'uncommon' in at least parts of its range (Stotz et al. 1996). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
Nests are woven into a shallow basket from dead emergent wetland vegetation, and attached to stalks of dense, live vegetation. Nests are generally placed over or adjacent to water, occasionally occurring in dry environments such as willows or grassy habitat near water's edge. The average clutch size ranges from 10-12 (sometimes 6-18) brown, spotted eggs, occasionally laid in two layers to accommodate such large numbers in a relatively small nest. Incubation by both parents lasts from 18-20 days, and is initiated with the laying of the first few eggs
Young hatch asynchronously due to incremental stages of incubation. Precocial downy young may be cared for by one parent, as the other parent incubates remaining eggs. Young soras leave the nest shortly after hatching, and mainly forage themselves, having been taught by a parent. At 21-25 days young soras fledge and gain independence from their parents' care.
Migratory. Movement begins late summer and early autumn, when birds gather in numbers around lakes and freshwater and brackish marshes; birds are cold-sensitive and depart with advent of frosts in Sept-Oct. Migrates on broad front, overland and sea; prone to drifting in strong winds and occasionally taken far out to sea. Present Mexico mid-Aug to May, Panama Sep-Apr, Costa Rica Oct-Apr, West Indies and Venezuela Sept-May, and Colombia Oct-May (oversummering recorded). Return noted to S USA from Mar; spreads N in Apr, reaching Canada early May. Main passages Atlantic coast (Maryland) mid-Apr to mid-May, and mid-Aug to late Oct. Accidental EC Alaska, Queen Charlotte Is, S Labrador, Bermuda, Greenland and W Europe.