The rails, or Rallidae, are small to medium-sized birds. The family includes the crakes, coots, and gallinules. Many species are associated with wetlands.
The most typical family members occupy dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps, or rivers. Reed beds are a particularly favoured habitat. In general, they are shy and secretive birds, and are difficult to observe.
Most species walk and run vigorously on strong legs, and have long toes which are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and although they are generally weak fliers, they are, nevertheless, capable of covering long distances.