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The comment period on the proposed listing of the Eastern Black Rail is open until 12/10/2018.
Click here to see the proposed rule and submit comments.

Eastern Black Rail(Laterallus jamaicensis jamaicensis)
Status: Proposed Threatened with a 4(d) Rule
Listed: Proposed Threatened rule published in federal register October 9, 2018.

For questions regarding the Eastern Black Rail in Arkansas, please contact Rebecca Peak at rebecca_peak@fws.gov or 501-513-4475.

Species Facts:
The eastern black rail is one of four subspecies of black rail, and the smallest rail in North America. They can be found in salt and freshwater marshes and damp grasslands and meadows in the eastern United States, Central America, and South America. The northern U. S. populations migrate to the southern U. S., Caribbean, and Central America for winter.

Eastern black rails are small, sparrow sized (3-6 inches total length) marsh birds. Adults have blackish-gray plumage with a chestnut patch on the back of the neck, white spotting on the back, wings, and tail, and red eyes.

Eastern black rails are very elusive birds. They prefer to move on foot, hidden in dense vegetation, rather than flying, so are rarely seen. They build hidden, bowl-like ground nests under dense vegetation and lay between 5-8 eggs per clutch.

Habitat Summary:
Eastern black rails occupy wetlands and marshes in areas of moist soil or shallow flooding. They require dense vegetative cover that allows movement underneath the canopy, such as rushes, sedges, and grasses. Water must stay shallow (0-3cm) during breeding season, as higher water levels can flood nests and drown chicks.

The species is likely a vagrant in Arkansas, passing through during migration.

Why is it proposed threatened?
The eastern black rail is a wetland dependent bird requiring dense emergent cover and extremely shallow water depths over a portion of the wetland-upland interface.

Grasslands, wetlands, and marshes have experienced significant loss and conversion in recent history and, although this trend has slowed, losses and alterations continue to occur in eastern rail habitat. Additionally, groundwater declines and water drainage systems/modifications such as channelization, levees, and dams have impacted many wetlands and subsequently wetland-dependent species.

Grassland and western habitat also require periodic disturbance, historically through fire. Fire suppression has allowed many types of grasslands to be overgrown with woody species, leading to a loss of grassland habitat.

Eastern black rails are currently protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which prohibits the capture, killing, collection, transportation or sale of migratory birds, chicks, and eggs. Suitable habitat for eastern black rail can also be found within NWRs, National Parks and Seashores, state parks, preserves, wildlife management areas, and other conservation lands across the subspecies’ range

Range in Arkansas:

Arkansas Field Office
110 S. Amity Road
Suite 300
Conway, AR 72032

501/513 4470 (v)
501/513 4480 (f)

Last Updated: October 17, 2018

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