Crakes are small rails with short, rather stout bills. Rufous-sided Crake is a medium sized crake with brown upperparts, offset by rufous sides of the head, neck, breast, and upper flanks. The center of the throat, breast and belly are white, and the lower blacks are barred black and white.
Rufous-sided Crake usually is readily distinguished by its small size, rufous sides, and barred flanks. Russet-crowned Crake (Anurolimnas viridis) has little or no white on the throat, breast or belly, has a dark bill, and lacks barring on the flanks. Black-banded Crake (Anurolimnas fasciatus) is larger and darker, with a dark bill, cinnamon (not white) base color to the flanks, and does not have any white on the throat, breast or belly. Red-and-white Crake (Laterallus leucopyrrhus) has a chestnut crown and sides of head, more boldly barred flanks, and white (not buffy) undertail coverts. Rufous-faced Crake (Laterallus xenopterus) has a buffy neck and breast, and white barring on the wing coverts and scapulars.
The following desciption refers to nominate melanophaius, and is based on Taylor (1998); see also Geographic Variation:
Adult: Sexes similar. Upperparts dark olive brown. Lores, feathers around eye, and often the supercilium tinged gray. Auriculars, sides of head and breast rufous to cinnamon rufous. Wing coverts olive brown. Throat and center of breast and belly white. Flanks and belly barred blackish brown and white. Undertail coverts dark cinnamon rufous.
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Iris: brown, bright red, red brown
Bill: maxilla gray, tomia pea green; mandible pale pea green, tip whitish
Tarsi and toes: light gray brown, olive brpown
Bare parts color data from Taylor (1998) and personal observations.
Total length: 14-18 cm (Taylor 1998), 15 cm (Hilty and Brown 1986), 15.5-16 cm (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b)
wing length (flat), male: mean 78.4 mm (range 71-82 mm, n = 9; Blake 1977)
culmen (from base), male: mean 20.3 mm (range 19-22 mm, n = 9; Blake 1997)
tarsus, male: mean 28.6 mm (range 25-33 m, n = 9; Blake 1997)
wing length (flat), female: 76 mm (n = 1; Blake 1977)
culmen (from base), female: 20 mm (n = 1; Blake 1997)
tarsus, female: 28 mm (n = 1; Blake 1997)
Mass: 1 male, 60 g (Haverschmidt and Mees 1994); 2 females, 53, 54 g (Haverschmidt and Mees 1994); mean 51.4 g (n = 6, sexes undetermined; Taylor 1998)