Black Rail

Silhouette RailsRails

Black Rail

Laterallus jamaicensis
  • ORDER: Gruiformes
  • FAMILY: Rallidae
Basic Description

One of the most elusive birds in an elusive family, the tiny Black Rail is infamously difficult to see. Its dark colors, broken up by white speckles, help it blend with the deep shadows of dense marshes, where it preys on small invertebrates. It’s easier to hear, particularly on spring nights when males sing a repeated, amiable kick-ee-kerr. Black Rails are vulnerable to sea-level rise and other changes to its marsh habitat, and are listed on the Partners in Flight Red Watch List because of recent steep declines.

More ID Info
image of range map for Black RailRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

Black Rails are both scarce and difficult to find. In some places, bird clubs organize field trips that search specifically for them, usually in the breeding season or during particularly high tides when water levels force these small birds to the edges of marshes. Listening for the kick-ee-kerr song during spring nights is the best way to find this species. Because many historical breeding areas in saltmarsh habitats have lost their populations of Black Rails, it might be worth listening for them at night in shallow freshwater marshes.

Other Names
  • Polluela Negruzca (Spanish)
  • Râle noir (French)
  • Cool Facts